So show me family / all the blood that I will bleed
I don't know where I belong / I don't know where I went wrong
I wake up. The room is dark and the curtains are drawn tight, though there's a sliver of sunlight cutting a line across the bedroom floor, telling me that the sun is up outside.
My head aches.
There's a man sleeping in the chair at the foot of my bed. He's stretched out and altogether too-big for the pink, floral post (not to mention too-icky looking, with his bleached hair and black leather coat). He looks a little childish in long-lashed slumber, but I'm sure that he's a fiend of some kind, judging by his combat boots and chipped black fingernails. I get up quietly, so as not to wake him, but the bed creaks betrayingly and he snaps to attention.
“Well... Good. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
I shake my head, a little afraid to take my eyes off him. He sighs exaggeratedly. Then he winces at the sound of voices on the stairs.
“Spike,” I say, remembering him for half a moment. He nods encouragingly, then his name slips away from me again. THE GOOD VAMPIRE, my mind supplies in its place.
“Want to stretch your legs?” THE GOOD VAMPIRE asks, putting out a hand. I take it and he helps me out of the bed. My legs feel wobbly, as if I haven't been using them much lately, and he pulls my arm around his shoulder for support.
“What happened?” I ask.
THE GOOD VAMPIRE sighs again, his face pained. I get a sudden sense of déjà vu and fight the urge to apologize for my apparently wonky brain. “S'alright, pet,” THE GOOD VAMPIRE says, seeing my look. “It comes an' goes. But Glinda says you're getting a little better.”
“That's good,” I say, trying for peppy. He smiles a watery smile. “And you're looking after me?”
“As best I can.”
“Well, that's good too.”
THE GOOD VAMPIRE's smile broadens unexpectedly. He opens the door and we go out into the corridor, my arm still around him. THE SAD REDHEAD is at the top of the stairs and I recognize her right away, even though I don't remember her name. She gives THE GOOD VAMPIRE a weak smile and he nods at her. Spike. It comes to me again, before flitting back off into the strange abyss.
“Dawn!” Calls a blonde, bounding gleefully up the stairs. “Dawnie, Dawnie, Dawn! How you doing? Is Spike taking good care of you?”
“Buffy?” I say, frowning. Seeing her in front of me makes my head feel even more muddled, like I'm waking up from a bad dream. “Buffy?” I say again, “You're here? You're-”
THE GOOD VAMPIRE grips my upper arms and moves to steer me past her. My chest feels like it's filling up with cotton wool. “Wait,” I say to him, trying to struggle free of his grip. “Hey, I-”
“Oh, let her talk to it,” THE SAD REDHEAD says, looking forlorn. “What's the harm? It's not like she'll remember, anyway.”
“Bollocks!” THE GOOD VAMPIRE says fiercely, his fingers unrelenting on my arms. “My responsibility and my call - that's what we decided, remember? Or did you want to take over the Bit's full-time care?”
THE SAD REDHEAD's face turns a fine shade to rival her hair. “I was just-” she splutters, her gaze ghosting over me at lightning speed, as if it's hard for her to see me at all. “I...”
“As I thought, Red,” THE GOOD VAMPIRE snaps. He doesn't spare a glance for Buffy, who is smiling at him brightly. And suddenly I hate him, even though I can still feel some other, deeper part of me, that must love him. “We'll be watching TV,” he says. “Keep that in the bedroom. I don't want it coming into the living room.”
He hoiks me roughly downstairs and my mind supplies a new moniker. THE EVIL VAMPIRE. “I hate you,” I say, finally shaking free.
He grits his teeth, “Well, that's more like it,” he replies.
“She's my sister! I have a right to-”
His cut-off stops me dead. He pushes me down onto the couch and slumps next to me, reaching for the remote. I immediately get up but he catches my wrist and yanks me down again. “Sit.”
“It's not fair-”
“Life's not fair, Bit,” THE EVIL VAMPIRE snarls, looking me full in the face (in the exact manner that THE SAD REDHEAD didn't seem able to). “Me breakin' my promise to big sis isn't bloody fair. But it happened, and all I can do now is try to protect you from...”
“What?” I demand. “From Buffy?”
THE EVIL VAMPIRE sighs, his head falling back against the couch cushions. “Fine,” he says. “I'm the evil vampire an' you're my helpless victim. You're not far off the mark, anyway.”
I stare at him angrily, before begrudgingly reassessing my earlier opinion. “You're my dad?”
THE EVIL VAMPIRE snorts.
“You're my brother?”
“I'm Spike,” he snaps finally. “Christ, at least your bloody thorn of a sister never did me the great dishonor of forgettin' my name.”
I bite my lip, feeling guilty again without totally understanding why. What a suckfest it is to have to feel guilty for things you can't even remember. “I'm sorry,” I say. “I guess you're trying to look after me.”
“Fat lot of good I'm doing you, Dawn,” he grumbles.
“You're sick of me.”
“No,” he sighs.
“You want to leave?”
“No.” He looks at me, “Never.” And suddenly he's THE GOOD VAMPIRE again. “Dawn, I'm just sorry this happened to you, alright? It's my fault.”
He frowns at me, his eyes dark as they flit between mine. Then he nods his head. “Yeah, it is. That's the way she'd see it, so that's the way it is.”
THE GOOD VAMPIRE emerges from the closet with a handful of funny-looking frilly dresses and I watch him curiously as he sets the ugly things out across my bedspread, flattening the pleats and frills with nervous, twitching fingers. They're hideous, each more-so than its predecessor, and I can't imagine what he plans on doing with them. One of them had a pink silk bow that makes me want to gag.
“C'mere Niblet,” he says, beckoning me over. I arch a brow and don't move. “Oi,” he says sternly, looking up. He looks tense and whatever the reason, it's making him mean. His cheek bones stand out like knife blades. “I said come here. Don't have all bloody day.”
I go to him and he yanks up the first dress, holding it up against me and furrowing his brow as he looks me over. He tilts his head then sighs, chucking the ugly garment back onto the bed and snatching up another. His eyes are kind of bleary as he holds up the next dress and I don't get it. “What's wrong?” I ask.
THE GOOD VAMPIRE shakes his head, dropping the dress and reaching for the next. “Nervous,” he said.
“About what?” I ask. He looks up sharply, studying my face. I know from the sad way that he looks at me then that I'm supposed to know. That, whatever it is, I did know a minute ago. “Sorry,” I say, looking down.
He smiles regretfully, tilting my chin with his thumb and stroking my cheek. He looks more tired than an immortal being should reasonably look and I wonder if it was me that did this to him. I still can't recall his name, but I can fish out a mental picture of him standing straight-backed and brimming with easy confidence, tongue rolled up behind his teeth. The picture in my mind doesn't match up with the exhausted vision in front of me and the missing part makes me want to cry.
“You know what?” he says. “Fuck it.” He yanks the ugly dresses up into his arms and tosses them back into the closet, not bothering with the hangers. “Let's go and have a look in your sister's closet.”
“Uh... Buffy doesn't like me wearing her clothes.”
“I'm sure she won't mind. C'mon.”
He takes my hand and leads me across the hall, stopping outside of Buffy's closed door. His fingers pause on the handle and I look at his face. He's thinking things I have no idea about.
“What?” I ask, and he shakes his head, pushing the door open quietly like he thinks she might be in there sleeping or something. But she's not.
It's dark in Buffy's room, and it smells kind of weird. There's a moth clinging to the tightly drawn curtains, and it stirs and flutters past us as we go in, its wings looking fragile as tissue. THE GOOD VAMPIRE's fingers trail over some of her things and I watch him curiously again, trying to figure him out. “Go an' look in the closet,” he says without looking at me. He's gazing at Mr. Gordo, and he looks like he's got something in his eye.
I go over to Buffy's closet and pull out a pair of leather pants, holding them up admiringly. There's black and shiny and wicked cool. I'm holding them against my legs when THE GOOD VAMPIRE comes over and laughs, putting them back. Then he sifts through the rack of clothes until he finds something that makes him smile softly – a gauzy blue layered shirt – and he holds it out to me. “Perfect, love.”
I hold it against myself, turning to Buffy's mirror. I'm the only one reflected there, even though I know he's right next to me, and for some reason that makes me feel really lonely. “You're sure Buffy won't be mad?”
He ruffles my hair and I watch it move in the mirror as if shifted by a breeze.
THE SAD REDHEAD and THE SHY ONE are waiting downstairs, sitting on the living room couch and looking about as anxious as THE GOOD VAMPIRE.
“Where is it?” He asks, as soon as we get to the bottom of the stairs.
“In the kitchen. Making cookies.”
THE GOOD VAMPIRE grunts, his nose wrinkling as if in disgust. Then he gestures at me. “Can you watch Dawn for a minute? I'm gonna change this shirt for somethin' a bit more... Dadish.”
“Sure,” says THE SHY ONE, patting the space next to her. I feel kind of weird being left by him, even if it is just for a minute while he gets changed. Still, I know he sees my hesitation and it makes him sorry.
He squeezes my arm, “Glinda's your favorite, Niblet. Much nicer than me, I promise.”
So I sit down between THE SAD REDHEAD and THE SHY ONE and they both admire Buffy's shirt and say how much it suits me. Then Buffy comes in from the kitchen with a tray of cookies in her hands and she's beaming at me, though I'm waiting for her to get mad about my outfit.
She puts the cookies down and fluffs her skirt. Something about her is making my head ache again. “Where's my Spike?” she sing-songs, and THE SAD REDHEAD flinches, biting her lip.
“It's just Spike,” she says, “Remember? He doesn't like it when you use possessive pronouns.”
Buffy's still just beaming her mega-watt smile. Then her eyes shift up to the top of the staircase and, despite the fact that it should be impossible, her smile gets even bigger. “Spike!”
I look up too, and I've got to stifle a giggle when I see him buttoning up a blue Oxford, even though I can't remember what he was wearing a minute ago. There's a loose tie hanging open around his neck, too, and his hair has been given a quick rinse so that it's free of gloop. He grins at me abashedly, but his smile halts when he sees Buffy.
“It's not wearing that,” he says abruptly, gesturing at my sister's black mini-skirt. “Christ, Red, I thought you understood how-”
“Alright, alright,” THE SAD REDHEAD says placatingly, getting to her feet. “I'll get her dressed. Come on, Buffy,” she says, taking my sister by the arm.
THE GOOD VAMPIRE is looking at the clock, and his thumbnail slides distractedly between his teeth as he bites at it, scraping away at the black polish.
“It's going to be alright, S-Spike,” THE SHY ONE says, her voice soft. He sits down beside her and she sets to work fixing his tie while he continues to worry his thumbnail. “Come on, relax,” she says, straightening the fabric and adjusting the knot. “You love her. That's all they'll need to see.”
THE GOOD VAMPIRE shuts his eyes, leaning back into the couch cushions. I want to comfort him, but I don't know how because I can't figure out why he's upset. Still, I get up from THE SHY ONE's other side and move to sit next to him instead. He puts out his arm without looking and I wriggle into the space he's made, putting my arms around his belly and setting my chin down onto his shoulder.
“I love you,” I tell him, and it feels true when I say it. He puts his hand on top of my head, pulling me closer so that he can press a kiss into my hair.
“I love you, too,” he says quietly, and there is a choke in his voice. “Don't forget, Dawn. You're everything.”
I stare at THE GOOD VAMPIRE sitting next to me with Buffy's hand in his, a warm and relaxed smile on his face as he tells THE STRANGER about how he and Buffy are caring for me. I can feel myself frowning even though I don't know why I think he's lying.
He looks perfectly comfortable there with Buffy's hand creeping up his leg, but something about it is wrong. I know it's wrong. Like I knew the shirt and tie were wrong.
I open my mouth to say something, but then he looks at me and I see that he isn't really relaxed at all. He looks tired and older than a hundred and twenty years.
“Are you okay, pet?” he asks worriedly, taking Buffy's hand off his knee and scooting closer to me. I nod a little and he squeezes my shoulder, keeping his palm there. “Excuse me, Mrs. Lee, I understand you have a number of points to cover, but do you have any questions for Dawn herself? She looks like she needs to rest.”
“Of course, I do apologize Miss Summers.” THE STRANGER consults her clipboard, running a manicured finger down the length of her secret list. I can feel the tension in THE GOOD VAMPIRE's hands as he waits for whatever it is that she's going to ask.
“What did I say?” I ask. Buffy is tucking me into bed distractedly, her eyes going back to the door and the staircase beyond. “Buffy? Did I do something bad?”
“What?” She asks, “No, of course not.” She leans down, pressing a kiss to my forehead. She smells sweet as sugar – it's a little weird. “I've gotta get back to Spike,” she says, hopping up again and taking off without a backward glance.
I can feel tears welling up in my eyes and I don't know why. A few spill out and I wipe at them ferociously, trying to remember... anything. Anything at all. But there's nothing. The only thing I remember is Buffy, but I think somehow I'm remembering her wrong. I try to remember THE GOOD VAMPIRE, but now that we're in different rooms I can't picture him at all. My mind draws a blurry picture of honey-curls and glasses, but that's not right either.
“Dawnie?” THE SHY ONE is peering in through my open door. “Are you okay?”
I nod, swiping at the tears still leaking down my cheeks.
“Hey,” THE SHY ONE comes into the room, easing herself down onto the end of my bed, careful to be gentle. “What's wrong, sweetie?”
I shrug, “I don't know,” I admit. “I... I hate this. I hate not knowing anything.”
“I know,” she says softly, “But you are getting better Dawnie, I promise.”
“I think I said something bad but I can't remember.”
THE SHY ONE bites her lip, her eyes going out to the staircase then back to me again. She shakes her head, though she looks worried. “I'm sure you didn't.”
“What does she want?”
“She's from CPS,” THE SHY ONE explains gently, and I imagine it's probably not the first time. “She just wants to make sure that you're being looked after properly. Spike's only nervous because he loves you. He wants them to see that.”
“What about Buffy?” I ask, and THE SHY ONE flinches like I've asked a difficult question. It brings about a clarity that I can't remember ever experiencing before. “She's not my sister, is she?” I ask, heart pounding as an image shifts in my mind. Buffy's hand on my cheek and her last whispered words. “Buffy died.”
“Yes.” Tara's soft agreement makes my chest hurt.
“Where's Giles? Why aren't Xander and Anya here?”
“Giles has gone to talk with your father,” Tara says softly. “Xander fought with Spike. He can't come back until he's apologized – we all agreed.”
My eyes flit back and forth between hers. It's almost scarier to remember, knowing that it'll all be gone again in a moment. “Tara, I'm so scared,” I say, my voice catching.
She shakes her head. “You're alright, Dawnie,” she says. “You're not alone.”
“When will I be better?”
Her eyes dip suddenly, and I bite my lip.
“Does Spike want to leave?” I rush on, wanting all the bad news out at once. “Is that why Giles is talking with my dad?”
This time, Tara looks up. Her eyes are blazing as she shakes her head. “Spike's terrified that you'll be taken away from him,” she says. “He's applied for joint guardianship with Bu... the Buffy Bot. Giles is on our side.”
“Oh...” I say, feeling sucker-punched; hollow, and then full up both at the same time. Like I never knew anyone other than Mom or Buffy could... care like that. I can feel tears wetting up my eyes again. My throat feels all tight like it got the first time I watched Titanic. And hey, I totally just remembered the first time I watched Titanic. “He's gonna stay?”
Tara smiles, nodding.
I smile too, feeling the wetness on my cheeks. Knowing that Spike's planning to stick around makes me feel better. Even if I can't always remember him, I'm sure I'd miss him if he was gone.
I can hear farewells being spouted by the front door, and I creep to the top of the stairs to watch Buffy and THE GOOD VAMPIRE seeing THE STRANGER off. She's smiling broadly, tucking her clipboard into her coat. Buffy's holding THE GOOD VAMPIRE's hand and he's got that easy smile again, his other arm resting around her slim waist like it's ordinary. Something about the sight of them together makes me feel funny – it's a kind of happy sad that I wish I could understand.
As soon as the door closes, THE GOOD VAMPIRE lets Buffy go and sinks down to his knees, his chest falling raggedly as he expels some weird emotion he's been holding in. It's freaky, and I think about trying to ignore it, but then I see him looking up and I realize all of that emotion's for me. And even if it is freaky, it's better than nothing at all. Because my sister doesn't seem to want me, but THE GOOD VAMPIRE does. I can't even remember his name, and he doesn't care.
He loves me anyway.