BtVS belongs to the GRRRRR-ARRRGGH and its people, not to me. 

Aftershock Reverberations

By Rashaka

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'  Do I dare
   Disturb the universe?
   In a minute there is time
   For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

          For I have known them all already, known them all: —
  Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
  I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
  I know the voices dying with a  dying fall
  Beneath the music from a farther room.
          So how should I presume?  '     

                        -T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

She swept into the dead man's home with the sun on her back and a storm at her heals.  A youthful chocolate-haired hellion, Spike thought acidicly, out for blood and thrice as righteous as her god-touched sister.

"Little Bit," the vampire coolly acknowledged, tilting his head and eyeballing her like a sulky tomcat that just lost its pride in a fight in some dank, refuse-littered alley.  His normally hyperactive body was tense and still, feigning disinterest yet still not dropping his gaze. 

Dawn knew he was in one of those moods, but she didn't care.  To hell with Spike and his mood swings, Willow and her poor broken heart, or Xander and his screw-ups.  Her sister had gone fucking insane today, and Dawn wasn't going to swallow any more of it.

"Are you screwing Buffy?"

Spike was on his feet and glaring at her before the last vicious syllable even left her mouth.  "Little Bit," he pronounced carefully, biting each word as it dared escape, "I don't think you have---"

"NO!" Dawn interrupted him, "No more I'm too young!  No more I can't understand!  Tell me the truth!"

His voice was testy in response, but still level and restrained.  He was the poster child of self-control at the brink, and his voice grated like he had swallowed sandpaper.  "Dawn, your sister loves you, and she wouldn't—"

"That girl," the fifteen-year-old snarled, jabbing her fingers in the direction of Revello Drive, "is not my sister.  I don't know that person any more.  You do."  Her breath caught, and Dawn couldn't help it—her voice broke like so many pieces of glass.  "You do…" she almost sobbed, "and you have to make me understand what is in her head because I can't.  You understand her, you always have I know you do.  She said she was sleeping with a vampire she hates.  I don't want to believe that Spike, but I have to know.  Tell me the truth."

The blond vampire swung around and stalked over to his refrigerator, and pulling out a dark wine bottle, turned back to the girl he'd promised his protection, pale face set in cold stone.  He answered her as he poured the dark liquid into a glass, and the madwoman's sister couldn't have said if it was a simple port, or human blood.

"We were, for a while.  We aren't now."

Dawn sniffled, and she thrust her chin out, still refusing to let the actual tears come to the surface.  "Why," she asked stiffly.

"Why were we sleeping together if she hates me," he rebounded, "or why aren't we anymore?"

"Both."

Spike took a long swig or the drink, then set the glass down so abruptly he was surprised it didn't shatter in his hand.  The way everything he touched was eventually shattered and destroyed.

"It's complex."

"I'll bet it is.  Everything with Buffy just has to be, doesn't it?  But I need to know.  I don't care how bad it is, Spike, if things go on the way they are no she may as well be dead again."

You belong in the dark, with me

I can't let you go, I love you.

I'm using you, and it's killing me.

"Alright then pet," he almost snarled, his stance straightening, "You're in bloody high school, and I know they don't just braid hair at your slumber parties anymore.  If you think you can handle it with your virgin little ears, fine. The only reason is that since she came back, I can hurt her.  I could bite her, kill her, rip her throat out if I felt so inclined.  It wasn't until I was bloody challenge to her at all that it started, and when it did it went like this: that night before you broke your arm, you were alone?"

Dawn nodded, eyes still wide with thought that Spike could hurt Buffy, even though he obviously hadn't.  Comprehension was beginning to dawn, so to speak, and Dawn liked less and less what was on the horizon.  The memory of her sister as she had com home that day, tired and heavy-shouldered, and yet more alert than she'd been in ages.  "Buffy came home late that morning," she replied softly.  "I was with Tara.  Buffy said she… she fought a big demon.  She was covered in scratches, and… bruises.  Her hair was crazy.  I thought they were bruises."

"Some of them were, pet," Spike replied, keeping his eyes steady one her, his gaze unwavering.  "Had my own shiny set that day.  But yeah, it was a fight, at first.  Then it was, other things.  And not all the bruising came from the fight."

Dawn ducked her head a moment in shyness or unhappiness he couldn't tell, then dragged her face back up resolutely.  Her mouth was tight, and her eyes grim but determined.  "I get it.  I mean, I do understand.  Keep talking."

He clucked his tongue in the back of his throat, and started to pace.  The mystery red bottle had found it way straight to his hand, drinking glass nowhere in sight, and he swung it through the air as he gestured in grand accompaniment of his words.

"So starts the bloody cycle.  She says it's bad and it needs to stop, but she keeps bloody on coming back.  It's her sodding escape, and her sodding punishment."  Spike threw back his head and Dawn watched his throat as he gulped down the stuff from the bottle.

"After all," he continued bitterly, seeming quite willing to rant unendingly now that he'd been kick-started into it, "She's in a living hell already, right?  So why the fuck not?  There she goes, her own bloody bot, free of charge and love and devotion included as a bonus feature." 

Before she realized it the tears that had built up were now running down Dawn's cheek in little rivers, but her one-time guardian didn't notice, and she couldn't make herself bring a hand up to brush them away.

"Then soldier boy comes back, and it's 'Oh no!  Reality rears its ugly sodding head!'  And it's "Sorry, William, I'm using you, but it's killing me even more, cause you're a soulless demon and even your love kills, so I'm not coming back, and you're not a part of my bloody life. Ta very much for your sodding time and service, carry on, and have a bloody nice eternal life, in the dark, away from me and MINE!"

CRACK!

Flying glass shattered on far wall, bits of dark brown falling everywhere, scattered on the floor like the shards of the broken heart in Spike's chest, a mess, blood-dripping collection left so carelessly in the Slayer's wake.  His empty hands hung limply at his sides now, and lapis lazuli eyes trailed over the broken glass on the crypt floor listlessly.  When he felt dawn skinny, familiar arms encircle him, his whole body shuddered, and his own tears began to find their way down the planes of his face.

"Why?  Why Spike?"  his Nibblet's sob-heavy voice choked into the back of his shirt.  They had something to cry over together: the once-kind girl who used someone who loved her and fantasized of a life without the sister that adored her.   "Why did you let her use you?  Why did you do it?"

He soaked in the feel of her arms around him… his little bit had been the first human to hug him in a century—that morning after Buffy died—and he was so starved for real affection, so tired of settling for sex, that even the simple comfort of this slip of a girl, her willingness to be his friend, was a lifeline to him.  Comfort of a friend, a friend who shared his grief especially, was so foreign to him, that he clung to it any chance the girl offered it.  She had such a big heart, his Dawn, she could love everyone, even him and still find love for more.  He wondered if Buffy had been like that once too, that open and that willing to love and trust.  Had it ended when she became the Slayer?  When Angel turned on her?  How long had Buffy been dead inside, as well a out?  Why was he so desperate for someone who was only a shell of the woman she used to be?

"Because I love her, Dawn, and I can't leave.  I'm so in love with her that I'll take her even if it's just for that, and I won't complain.  She is my life now.  I love what she loves, I protect what she protects, and I'm desperate to be with her, even in a small way. "

"But she's so messed up inside, and you love her so much and she's wrong to do that to you, you shouldn't have to---"

"Shhh…" He unlaced her arms from his middle and turned around, holding her shoulders and looking down at her own fellow blue eyes, noticing even now that she was a good inch above her sister.  She was as beautiful as Buffy, maybe more so, and even standing there with blotchy cheeks and teary eyes and uncombed hair, a part of him was insanely proud of her.  She was growing up strong and beautiful, and yet still she trusted him.

"It's not that simple, love," he said kindly, meeting her gaze.  "Sometimes I hate it that I let myself become so weak, so tied down to a few humans, but whenever I think about not being in love with your sister I just have this huge, terrible emptiness inside where she used to be.  You don't choose who you love, Dawn. You just do."

Dawn sniffled, and wiped her hand across her nose in a gesture that belied her age.  "But she said she hates you."

"Doesn't matter.  Doesn't change how I feel.  All it does is give me a whole world of pain I'd rather not have, if I could do without.  But I can't.  Do without---her."

Dawn nodded, and aggressively wiped the tearstains off her cheeks.  "She went insane today, after you left.  She tied us all up down in the basement, and let the demon free.  She said it was all fake, superpowers and demons and a slayer who sleeps with a vampire she hates.  She kept---she kept saying she needed to get better, and we were trap in her mind, and she couldn't listen to us.  Tara found us and Buffy knocked her down the basement stairs."

She looked up to see the platinum blond vampire's eyes wide, but his mouth compressed into a thin line.  "And?" he prodded gently.

I don't have a sister.

Dawn looked away again.  "I wasn't even there—in her fantasy thing with doctors and hospitals I didn't exist.  She was insane, Spike.  I haven't been that afraid since Glory.  And then it was like, she woke up.  She stepped in, and she killed the demon, and she said she wanted the antidote.  She said she was sorry, and she looked so awful.  So frightening and then so sad."

Spike sighed, a weighted, human sigh, and the former key looked at him questioningly.  He only sighed deeply again, and half-turning away ran his hand through his hair, feeling the smooth waves form into smaller curls as he moved through them.

"I'll be damned," he muttered slowly, so faintly Dawn had to strain to hear it.  He sat down on the crypt floor and held his head down in his hands, wringing his fingers over the bleached locks.

"Spike?" the fifteen-year-old asked, slightly puzzled and wondering if he was crying again.

"It sounds, Bite-size," he replied tiredly, but oddly hopeful, "like maybe someday she's going to be ok after all."

Dawn let out a big sigh of her own, and turned the thought over in her head.  Buffy was going to be ok someday.  Buffy chose to stay with her instead of go into the fantasy.  Buffy was going to be ok.

She plopped down on the cement floor across from him, tucking her knees in Indian style.  "What do I do now, though?"

His words were wistful, and echoed softly from under his bent head.  "Love her, and wait for her."

"And what are you going to do?"

"If I can survive the trip, the same."

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