Title: Leaving Normal

Author: Starbaby

Series: BtVS

Rating: PG

Summary: Yet another post-ep, this time for "Normal Again." As always, B/S. With much Spike and Dawn friendship, because I miss it.

Disclaimer: They're ours in spirit.

Leaving Normal

3/14/02

"My darling girl, when are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue. It rather denotes a lack of courage."---Aunt Frances, Practical Magic

She's not hiding, exactly.

More like…lingering…behind a huge, marble angel so that the two figures seated on the grass won't see her. They are an unlikely pair, the vampire and the girl, one she didn't always encourage and will never fully understand. Yet there they sit, luminous in starlight, innocence and evil drawn to one another like strange attractors. Could it be because one is young in years, and the other young at heart?

Buffy shakes her head to clear it of these strange thoughts. Warren's poison must be having residual effects. She's here to retrieve Dawn and nothing more. She's not here to admire his bone structure, or how he shines in the moonlight. And Dawn…just blooming and already more beautiful than the morning sun. She remembers how the clinic Doctor called Dawn her failed creation. No, not a failure, just…different…a tempestuous creature with her very own loves and hatreds. And she loves Spike.

This is ridiculous. She should seize Dawn's hand and drag her away, hurling a threat over her shoulder as the two of them scuttle off toward the light. And she would, if her sister wasn't balanced so precariously on the cusp of adulthood. One (more) wrong move and they could lose her forever. . No one knows this better than Buffy, who has seen so many turn to the dark side, always when life broke them. She would do it, if Dawn didn't look so happy, sitting there watching the stars with a…friend…she made, not because of Buffy, but despite her.

She would, if they weren't talking about her now.

"….then she knocked Tara down the stairs…"

She would tell Dawn again how very dangerous this vampire was, with his wiles and his leather. Buffy would tell her if she hadn't, this very afternoon, chased Dawn all over the house and hog-tied her on the basement floor.

Dawn has kicked off her shoes and placed her feet flat on the grass, probably enjoying the tickle. Buffy closes her eyes for a moment, remembering a night when she curled up next to her Mom on the sofa, wearing thick, wool socks. Other memories come, unbidden. Desert sands seeping into her sandals, the uncomfortable pinch of the black flats she was buried in, her toes digging into soft, persian rugs…

So not going there. That way lies naked badness of the vamp variety.

The next words enter her heart like bullets.

"I'm kind of scared to go home, Spike. It was so freaky. She just kept coming and coming. No one else was there and she was just focused on me."

Spike's tone is dry. "I know where you're comin' from, Bit."

Out of site, Buffy leans her head against the cold marble. How utterly craptacular. Is there anyone she hasn't attacked? Only poor, heartbroken Anya remains unscathed.

"But she swallowed Red's potion good and proper, right? She chose you, and this life, over the other. Big sis loves you. Never doubt that, Niblet," He is chewing on an unlit cigarette, clearly agitated.

Dawn nudges him with her bare toe. "Ummm…Spike. When Buffy went all Norman Bates she shouted something about the two you doing the horizontal mambo." No shy violet is their Dawn.

Buffy's heart does triple time, and Spike bites clean through his fag. Dawn rambles on, oblivious. "Not that that's bad. But the way she's been lately…."

He told her he would tell the others if she didn't, but Dawn isn't people. Dawn is…theirs.

It's got to be the poison talking. Maybe Willow has more antidote. Cups and cups of antidote.

Spike hunches in on himself. Buffy notices, for the first time, how weary he looks. He's a little pale around the eyes…probably not sleeping well. She doesn't sleep well herself, not these days. There's something coming, something big and painful and unavoidable, a struggle in starlight that will leave them all forever changed. And then there are the dreams of him, obnoxious, alluring, dangerous Spike, with his leather and his wiles. If her life really were a grim fantasy, he would be the dark prince of the tale, soulless and inhumane despite gifts of great beauty and power.

He turns to Dawn and taps her nose, which is lightly freckled after fifteen summers in the sun. "That's between her and me, Pet. But I'll tell you this…sometimes, when we least deserve love is when we need it the most." He releases a unneeded breath into the night air. "She saved the world…a lot. The very least the lot of us can do is return the favor."

He waits until Dawn is almost asleep, nodding off against his side. She is drooling on his coat, adding girl-spit to all the ashes, tears and road dust that has worked itself into the leather since the day he roared into their lives.

"You must do something for me, Dawn. This is so important. Tomorrow, when your sister wakes up, first thing, you give her a kiss and tell her you love her. Girl's had more than her share of trouble."

Dawn nods sleepily. Spike goes on. "And stop pinching things. You'll wind up an inmate like that Faith bird. In the big house, they make you wear a jumpsuit. And listening to boy bands will get you beaten up."

Dawn snorts out a laugh. "I love you, Spike."

He gives her an awkward, one-armed hug. "Back at you, Bit. Buffy made me want to change, but you changed my life. Remember that--no matter what happens."

The girl drifts off, held in the strange cradle of a vampire's arm, and Buffy just watches them for a moment, the two figures huddled together like orphans in starlight. Finally, she emerges from the shadows and makes her way across the grass. Spike looks up briefly, apparently not surprised to see her.

"Slayer,' he nods. "Expected you to come out with claws swinging. Lioness protecting the cub and all that. Saw it once, when Dru and I did Africa. Didn't care for the place much." He sends her a challenging look. "The people tasted like sand."

He is what he is, she reminds herself. A study in contrasts. A poet-murderer.

She'd like to draw him as he is now, a son of darkness cradling a daughter of light. If she had that, maybe it wouldn't be so hard to see and not touch. If she had that, she wouldn't be jealous of goth girls and terrified by the first, faint flutterings of familiarity. It has to be a Slayer thing, she tells herself, a subconscious marking of territory.

But what was the deal with that, since she had, in no uncertain terms, given up her claim?

Why the dreams of him, with his leather and his wiles. Maybe because she knows his body better than any other, even Riley's. She's kissed him everywhere, put her lips in places where lips just aren't supposed to go. He was her playground, her troubadour, the first lover she lost on her own terms, with full consent. And yet…the dreams come nightly, full of the sound and fury of pent-up passion in its final hour. The night wind still feels like his breath on the back of her neck, his fingers sweeping aside her hair.

He lights a cigarette, but carefully blows the smoke away from Dawn, who snuffles and kicks him in her sleep. She wonders if they would understand the dreams of a mystical key.

She shifts from one foot to another, not sure how to phrase this alien statement. "Thank you for helping with the demon."

He seems surprised, very pleased, looks up in wonder, does the head tilt thing. Like she's the chocolate chips in his plain cookie of an unlife.

"Heard you concussed the Whelp. Good job, that."

She laughs, not because Xander's head injury is funny, but because it's so Spike. He is what he is.

"I should take Dawn home." He nods and bends his head low to light yet another cigarette. The moon peaks out from behind a cloud.

Oh, how he shines.

Before she can stop herself--bad, bad Buffy--she leans over and drops a kiss on top of that curly, moonlit head. Then she jerks poor Dawn to her feet and flees like the Gentlemen are on their heels.

She had to do it. She'd kissed him everywhere.

Everywhere but there.

FINIS