Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: Fill for the sb-fag-ends prompt: "A spell makes the Scoobies lose their memory of Dawn."
"Your sister, Slayer," Spike continues to insist. "She's your sister."
"I don't have time for this," Buffy says again.
Not that there's ever a good time for Spike. But right now, she especially doesn't have time for this. Right now, everything's horrible. Giles is gone and she's stuck here and Willow's doing things she shouldn't and Tara's upset and why, why, why did she think that she could be safe with Spike? Why did she let herself touch him, kiss him, let herself think she could forget? He takes it wrong, of course he does. Won't listen, won't pay attention, won't understand how she doesn't love him, couldn't love him.
Won't understand how she can't love anything.
"I don't have a sister, Spike."
Dawn sleeps in his bed. He spends the night beside it, piles up a mountain of rugs and makes like she's getting away with something, sneaking out to visit the big bad vampire the way she did before, when there were people to care that she'd been sneaking.
In the morning they eat junk food and watch cartoons and he teaches her to cheat at poker until the sun goes down once more and they head back to Revello Drive in the vain hope that everything will be fine by the time they get there.
But Willow's never seen her face before.
Spike takes her around back, tells her to crouch down where she'd waited, hidden, while the Hellions burned the neighbourhood only months before. Dawn sits, legs up to her chest and breaths coming just a little too fast and shaky to really hit the silence he'd asked for, while he climbs in through Buffy's bedroom window.
He's back sooner than she'd expected, later than she'd wanted, and without a single possession of hers in tow. The moment he's in reach of her he clutches her shoulder, affirming, and pulls her up.
"What happened?" she asks, terrified and upset and desperately homesick despite her home being three feet away. "Spike, what happened?"
He ushers her after him, back out to the street, where it's lit and free of suspicious witches. "Dawnie, it's empty. The whole thing's empty."
He hands her the only thing he brought out, just a little photo of her mom and Buffy from back once upon a time when they could pretend things were normal every so often.
Dawn swallows. "I'm supposed to be here," she whispers. "Where did I go?" Her hand isn't fading yet, but she could Marty McFly out of existence at any moment and Spike could be the only one to know she was ever here at all.
She shivers and he covers her fingers with his own. "We'll sort it out, Bit," he promises. Dawn sniffs and nods, because there isn't much else she can do when she doesn't exist. She puts the picture back in his pocket.
"You died for her, Buffy."
She nods. "I know. But I died for everyone else too."
"Not the way you died for her."
"It's a spell," Spike informs the Scoobies, after they reaffirm that Buffy does not have nor has she ever had a sister. And none of them have sisters, so he should probably give up on whatever scam he's running. Sisters don't just show up out of nowhere, not in real life. That's the stuff they save for Lifetime movies and the soap operas Spike has spent too much time watching lately.
"The lot of you, you're all under a spell. Or, out of a spell. Point is, there's magics, and you all have come down forgetful because of them."
"Even if we forgot someone, shouldn't there be, you know, evidence?" asks Anya. She's paying more attention to him than most the rest of the gang is, and not very much at that since she's got her pretty little cash register to amuse herself with.
"Well, there was, but that's gone too," Spike admits.
"So, no proof, no memories, nothing but your honest word? Gee, Spike, that's really adding up in your favour. While we're at it, I'd like to purchase your best bridge, please," Xander snarks, flipping through the poorly-concealed comic inside his research book.
"Listen," Spike huffs. "There's… Look, what about the Key, then, hm?"
"What about the Key?"
"What is it?"
"Well," says Anya, "it's the Key."
"I mean, how's it look?"
"Like the Key," Xander says. "You know, Key-shaped, except not so much like a key."
"It's green," Tara adds quietly from her side of the table. "Glistening. But on the inside."
"Yeah," agrees Xander, nodding. "What Tara said."
Spike growls a growl that tapers into a frustrated sigh. "And the monks? What'd it look like after they hid it?"
"The monks hid the Key from Glory," Anya supplies helpfully.
Dawn waits for him in the dark on the second-to-top step, his coat around her shoulders to fight the basement chill.
Her heart thumps at Buffy's voice, just a little past her head. "Spike," her sister-who-may-not-be-her-sister-anymore sounds less than amused, "you're stealing again."
"Oh, you know me, Slayer. Take what I need and all that."
"You need some of Giles' spell books?"
"Yeah. Gotta thing I'm workin' on."
There's a pause and Dawn readies herself to bolt down the stairs in some wild escape if it comes to that, but apparently Spike doesn't need to make a break for it quite yet.
"You're still taking care of that girl?" Buffy asks, her voice quieter, losing its accusatory edge.
"Dawn," Spike corrects. "And yeah. Gonna keep looking out for her."
Buffy's voice is a whisper. "Till the end of the world."
Silence. Quiet and silence and nothing until Spike finally manages a tentative, "Buffy?"
But by the time Dawn bursts into the shop, the little bell is already tolling its goodbye.