Safe With You

(the missing scene from Tough Love)

Buffy scanned the crowded schoolyard anxiously, dodging the streams of kids as they poured out of the front door. Please tell me she didn't pick today to play truant again, she thought.

There she was! Walking slowly along, deep in conversation with a tallish boy with floppy brown hair. Despite Buffy's anxiety, she couldn't help noticing that he reminded her faintly of Ben. No. Bad Buffy. I cannot be thinking about him now, when Dawn is in so much danger …

"Dawn!" she yelled.

Her sister looked up. Her face fell immediately.

Buffy yelled again. "Dawn, come here! Quickly!"

The boy looked at her in surprise. Dawn blushed furiously and began to drag her feet.

"Er, maybe I better go," said the boy.

"No. Kevin –"

"Sorry. I'll see you around." He turned and hotfooted it in the opposite direction.

Dawn stomped angrily up to Buffy. "What did you have to go and do that for? That was Kevin Berman! I've just about managed to persuade him that I'm not a freak and-"

"Dawn." Buffy lowered her voice. "Glory got Tara."

Dawn's eyes opened wide in horror.

"Oh, God! "

"She brain-sucked her. She's at the hospital now. I have to go see her."

"Did she – Am I – "

"I don't think so, but I can't be sure. Dawn, I have to make sure you're safe first. C'mon."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you," said Buffy firmly, "to the only other person we know who has any chance of protecting you. "

In spite of her tears, Dawn's face lit up. There was only one person that could mean.

The afternoon shadows were lengthening as they hopped off the bus and walked swiftly through the cemetery.

As they reached the door of one particular crypt, Buffy hesitated. Then she did something she'd never done before. She raised her hand and knocked.

For a moment there was silence. Then, faintly in the distance, they heard a familiar voice say: "What the hell was that?"

Buffy gently pushed the outer door open, poked her head around the inner door and found herself looking straight down the twin barrels of a shotgun –

Which was almost dropped by the vampire who was holding it as he suddenly realised who he was pointing it at.

"Buffy," he breathed, an unmistakeable flash of joy illuminating his battered features. Then he straightened up and added, in a much more normal tone, "What the bloody hell did you have to go and knock for? You've never done that before-" He stopped himself abruptly. "Er. Well. Sorry about the welcome. It's just, that Glory hellbitch knows where I live now, and – Oh, it's you, Niblet," he added as Dawn slipped in behind her sister. "What can I be doing for you, then?"

Dawn gasped in horror.

"Oh, my God! Your face …"

He did not, admittedly, look as bad as the last time Buffy had seen him. But his hair was still dishevelled, the cut across his lower lip had swollen up and the bruises on his face had blossomed into a pair of magnificent black eyes. He shrugged. "Guess I'm still not exactly a pretty sight – "

No time for this, thought Buffy. "Glory got Tara. Can I leave Dawn with you?"

He stared at her in horror. "What, Red's witch-girl? Oh God, no."

"She brain-sucked her," Buffy went on. "I have to go see her. Please – can you keep Dawn safe? I know you can –"

"Can and will," replied Spike firmly. He limped over to the side of the crypt, picked up his coat and shrugged into it. "C'mon, Niblet," he said, holding out his hand.

"You'd better not stay here, they know where to find you," Buffy went on.

"No worries," said Spike. "We'll go to the caves. You know the ones I mean? Down the tunnel, take the first right fork, carry straight on until you get to the junction with the Dutton sewer, then right again." He paused and looked down. "Tell Red – tell her I hope Tara's OK," he added softly. "Glory's not one to mess with for long."

Buffy stroked her sister's hair. "Dawn," she said, gently. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Honest."

"She'll be safe with me," said Spike. "Anything wants a piece of Dawn will have to come through Spike first." He looked her straight in the eye. "I promise."

"I know," replied Buffy, turning to leave.

But there was something else she needed to say.

"Oh, and, Spike – "

He grimaced. "Yeah, all right, I know the rest of this song. Anything happens to her, I get the stake –"

"No," said Buffy, with a horrified expression. "I meant – Thank you." She turned on her heel and left the crypt before he could reply. He stared after her with a dazed expression for a moment, then murmured "Bloody hell. Did you hear that?"

"Yes," said Dawn in a small voice. "And she meant it."