Author's Note the First - I wrote this one-shot 'cause the idea just wouldn't leave me alone. This little fic is my take on the Halloween episode from Season 6 (you know, Dawn's sojourn into the world of dating the undead). I just always thought Spike would have more to say about Dawn sneaking out and getting in trouble than he did on the show. Anywho, here it is. Please read and review!

DISCLAIMER: It's not mine. I'm just borrowing it for awhile. Please don't sue me!

All The Way...Again

"So," Dawn sighed resignedly, avoiding eye contact with her rescuers as they stood in the darkened grove, "I'm guessing I'm probably going to be on house arrest for awhile, huh?" She laughed weakly in an attempt to break the thick tension around the group. When that tactic failed, she let her shoulders slump and her head hang. "Can we just go home now?"

"Yeah, Dawnie," Buffy nodded and grabbed her sister's hand, "let's go."

The quartet walked in silence as they headed back to Revello Drive. Spike walked in front while Buffy stuck close to Dawn's right side and Giles brought up the rear. The Slayer kept a light, but constant hold on Dawn's arm as though she was afraid the younger girl would disappear if given the chance.

"Are you mad?" Dawn asked suddenly, her voice quaky from the effort to stop herself from crying.

"Of cour..." Buffy began to respond until she realized the question wasn't directed at her. Instead Dawn's gaze was trained on Spike's back. Huh, she thought, feeling distinctly jilted, as she watched Dawn jog to catch up with the vampire, that's odd.

"Spike?" The former Key tugged on the sleeve of his infamous leather duster when the bleached vamp ignored her presence at his side. "I asked if you were mad at me."

"Not me you should worry about, right? Big Sis is the one dolling out the punishments now." He replied without slowing his stride.

"But I wanna know if you're mad."

Spike stopped and took a deep, unneeded breath before turning to face Dawn. He offered her a brief, tight smile and said unconvincingly, "I'm not mad, Dawn," the use of her real name instead of one of his many pet names for her produced a flinch from the youngest Summers, "I'm not mad at all."

"You're lying." She stated boldly though the quivering of her bottom lip betrayed her distress.

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you..."

"Alright, fine!" Spike finally lost control and grabbed Dawn by the upper arms. "I am mad! I'm bloody fucking furious!" To emphasize his point, he shook the teen slightly.

Buffy's initial reaction when the snarling vampire reached for her baby sister was to intercede; to step in and once again remove Dawnie from danger. The fact that Spike's handy-dandy government issued chip wasn't firing indicating that Dawn wasn't in any real danger of being harmed didn't register in the Slayer's brain and she immediately moved to separate the pair. Giles soft but insistent hand on her shoulder halted her progress. Confused hazel eyes turned to the man she consider more of a father than the male biologically responsible for her birth, but he simply shook his head and uttered a quiet, "Don't."

"What were you thinking, Dawn?" Spike questioned angrily, drawing both the Slayer and Watcher's attention back to the pair. "Were you trying to get yourself killed? Or worse, turned?"

"I didn't know he was a vampire!" She choked out. "I thought he was human."

"That doesn't matter! A human boy can hurt you just as bad as a vamp. What were you doing sneaking out to meet any male? Why didn't you just ask if you could go?"

"I-I didn't think I'd be allowed to. You would've said n-no and..."

"No, I would have demanded to meet the whelp trying to take you out before I let you go anywhere with him. And, if I had met him, I could have saved you all this trouble by letting you know right away that he didn't have a heartbeat!"

Spike released Dawn and took a step away from her trembling form, raking his fingers through his already disheveled hair. When he noticed the tears pooling in her large eyes before spilling down her flushed cheeks, all of the anger seeped from his body and he seemed to deflate. With a gentler hand, he reached out and wiped away the moisture dripping down her face. "I liked him." She whimpered, falling forward so her forehead rested against his chest and her tears soaked through the soft black cotton covering it.

"I know, my sweet girl. And you had to stake him. I'm so sorry." In a practiced move, Spike shrugged out of his duster and slipped it around Dawn's shoulders. With less effort than it took a human man to lift a pillow, he then swung her up into his arms and once again began moving towards the Summers' home.

"What just happened here?" Buffy asked Giles as they scrambled to follow the vampire and his precious cargo.

"Dawn was worried that Spike was angry with her." He answered simply.

"Yeah, I get that. My question is why was Dawn worried about whether or not Spike was mad at her?"

Giles looked uncomfortable for a moment before pulling his polishing cloth out of his pocket and setting to work on his glasses.

"While you were, uh...away, Dawn and Spike became extremely close. In the days immediately after your...death," Giles said the word through clenched teeth, "he was the only one she would respond to. Even after Willow and Tara moved into the house to help with her care, she'd sneak off only to be found sleeping at Spike's crypt. For awhile, he had to sit with her every night until she fell asleep or risk her wandering off into the night to find him." The Watcher mindlessly polished his glasses while staring pensively ahead. "And when everyone else was busy, which was most often, he was her primary guardian."

"So, basically, he was her baby-sitter all summer?"

Exasperation crept into his features as Giles replaced his glasses. "It was more involved than that, Buffy."

"Involved how?"

"She loves him, very much. I'm not sure if she sees him as an older brother or more of a father-figure, but she either way, she loves him. And, although it goes against everything I was ever taught about soulless vampires, he loves her, too. I firmly believe that she is the only reason he didn't just walk into the sun after you jumped."

"Oh." Buffy had nothing more to say. The rest of the trip was made in silence. It wasn't until they'd reached the house and Giles turned to leave that Buffy spoke. "You're not staying? I thought, maybe, you could talk to Dawn for..."

"It is not my job to discipline Dawn, Buffy." He interrupted. "That responsibility lies with you."

"I know. It's just...I-I don't really know what I'm doing. I don't know how to be a mom, Giles."

"Then don't be a mother, be a sister." He said sagely before departing, leaving a confused and flustered Slayer on the driveway. She entered the house to find Spike sitting on the staircase, fidgeting with an unlit cigarette.

"Dawn's upstairs waitin' for you. Reckon she wants to know just how much trouble she's in." He told her as he rose and headed for the door. "She's had a tough night, Slayer. Go easy on her."

"Spike?" Buffy called to him before he could disappear into the night.

"What, luv?"

"Giles told me that you took care of her while I was dead."

"Yeah, well," he flinched at the casual way she mentioned her death, "had a promise to keep, didn't I?" He said gruffly.

"Yes, you did. But that's not the only reason you stayed, is it?"

"No," he admitted rather grudgingly, " 's not the only reason. When you died, it tore the 'Bit up. I couldn't just leave with her hurtin' like that. 'M not Peaches. I don't skip town when the scene becomes less than ideal. And it's not like I was doing it to impress you, so don't you be thinkin' that." He waggled a defensive finger at her. "I didn't think you'd ever be back. I did it because, despite my best efforts not to become a complete poof, I love the chit. I know you don't think that's possible without a soul, but…"

"Spike," Buffy cut through his babbling, "I-I know it's possible. I know you can love."

"Oh…well," he uttered confusedly, thrown by her softly spoken words, "that's good then." The vampire graced her with a genuine smile. Not a smirk or a quirk of the lips, but a real honest-to-goodness smile. He stood awkwardly for a moment, the silence stretching between the two of them until he cleard his throat and stepped back towards the door. "Since that's cleared up, I'd better get going, pet. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"He'd already turned to go when a deceptively frail looking hand latched onto his forearm.

"Wait!"

"Yeah?"

"Um, if y-you…" Buffy paused to find the words she needed. "Say, there was this girl and she snuck out and met up with some less-than-reputable character and got herself into a bit of trouble. If you were going to punish her, what would you do?"

A smug looking smirk crept across Spike's pale face. "Are you asking me for advice, Slayer?"

"No!" She denied automatically before dropping her eyes. "Maybe." She admitted, throwing her hands up in frustration. "It's just…I…I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to do any of this! All of this mothering stuff. Give me an apocalypse any day and I'll handle it just fine without even breaking a sweat, but ask me successfully parent my little sister without emotionally scarring her for the rest of her life and I have a panic attack. What if I screw up? What if Dawn winds up hating me for the rest of her life. What if…"

"Enough!" Spike tipped Buffy's chin up, locking her eyes with his. "First of all, you are going to screw up." He shushed her when she preemptively scoffed at his attempt to placate her. "That's just a fact of life, pet. No ones perfect, not even the Slayer. You'll probably even screw up more than once. But no matter how badly you mess things up, Dawn will never hate you. She'll love you until the day the sun stops shining and not a day less. You're her whole world and the sooner you realize that, the easier this is all going to be. She needs you, Buffy. Just be there for her. You don't have to replace your mum, you just have to be yourself and she'll be satisfied."

"Wow," Buffy smiled softly, "that didn't make quite so much sense when Giles said it."

"Well, I've been around for just a bit longer than him." The vampire winked. "Makes me just a little bit wiser."

"I get it now, that I don't have to be perfect, but…I'm still scared. What if…"

"Nope, no more 'what if's', Slayer. You've just got to take it day-by-day and see what happens."

"Will you be here?"

"W-What?" He stuttered, taken aback by her abrupt and slightly desperate question.

"Will you be here, y'know, while I'm taking it day-by-day? I mean, it's not like I need you to do everything for me," she rushed, uncomfortable with being vulnerable, "but…it'd be nice to have some back-up when I need it."

"Slayer," he brushed a stray strand of blonde hair behind her ear, "Buffy, I'll always have your back. I don't know how to make that any clearer than I already have. I'm your beck-and-call vamp, remember?"

" Yeah, I remember and…thank-you, Spike. I don't even know what to…and you, you…just…thank-you."

"No need to thank me, pet. Besides," he flashed another one of those genuine smiles, "I'll be requiring sexual favors for my services." He had the front door open and was halfway down the steps before Buffy could fully process what he'd said.

"WHAT?" She yelled, chasing after him.

"Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist, luv. I was only joking."

"Yeah, well…you'd better have been." The smile tugging at the corners of her mouth belied her commanding tone. Spike bowed obligingly before once again turning to head in the direction of his crypt. He'd only made it a few feet when Buffy once again called out to him. "Wait, you never told me how you'd punish Dawn!"

"Take away her telephone privileges for two weeks and make her come straight home after school. No hopping off to Janice's or any of her other little friend's for two weeks, either." He called back.

"Really? That's all you'd do?"

The vamp shrugged, shaking his head dismissively. "Yeah, figure she's been through enough tonight. Got caught sneaking out, had to stake the boy she liked, got yelled out by a devilishly handsome, yet terribly horrifying British vampire…"

"Okay, okay," Buffy said, holding out her hands in surrender, "I get it. Go light with the punishment."

"Just this once. She does this again, you bring the house down around her, yeah?"

"Yeah."

"That's alright, then. I'm off Slayer. Are you sure there's nothing else you need before I go home?"

Buffy sighed, watching as Spike started to walk away, moving backwards slowly. "No, that's it for tonight. But tomorrow I might need…backup and stuff. So…if you wanted to come by then…"

"Tomorrow it is then, pet. See you then." After sending a soft, parting smile her way he was gone, strutting down the street as though he owned it. She watched him until he disappeared around the corner, the black leather of his duster swirling around his boot clad feet.

After taking a deep, fortifying breath Buffy moved back into the house to deal with her sister. Spike was right, she was going to mess up eventually. No ones perfect, after all, especially not her. But, she wasn't alone. And with a little help, she could get through anything.

Author's Note the Second – So…how was that? I feel like the ending could have been better, but it is what it is. Please tell me what you think!