“You and I, we belong on this wild and wonderful trail.” - The Tallest Man on Earth: 'Beginners'
São Paulo, Southern Brazil, South America – June 1998
Dawn Summers was, at that moment, nine and three quarters, brave (though a little scared), brown-haired, blue-eyed, sharp as a tack – and curled up like a woodlouse in the slightly strange-smelling trunk of a very old car.
The string of muffled curses were punctuated with echoing fist thumps, each one pounding on the lid of the trunk, just a few spare feet from where she lay with her head buried under her arms.
“Bloody Dru and her bloody barmy...”
The roof of her cozy (if whiffy) prison was yanked up abruptly, and she peeked out of the crook of her elbow to look at him again. It was still the dead of night. They were still in Brazil. He still looked half-mad with anger.
“C'mon,” he said. “Get out.”
Dawn burrowed deeper into the trunk and he caught her by the tail of her sweater, pulling hard until she was out again, her fingertips brushing against the bumper as she fought to wriggle free.
“C'mon,” he said again, sounding exasperated this time. It was a familiar adult sounding exasperation, and Dawn didn't like it one bit. She swiped his big hands petulantly from the back of her sweatshirt, then turned, crossing her arms (Buffy-style) and setting him with a glare that said I'm not scared, you don't scare me, I'm not scared of anything.
“I thought you said I had to stay in the trunk until we got back to--”
“Forget that,” he cut her off with a savage look that would have curled her toenails, had she not already decided that she wasn't scared of anything. “Get in the front seat.”
“I don't want to.”
“And I don't rightly care what you want. I said get in the front seat. Do it or I'll eat you, yeah? How about that?”
She rolled her eyes. “You don't eat people,” she told him like he was an idiot. “You save them. You told me that two weeks ago.”
He shut his eyes – exasperated again – and clenched his funny-looking jaw. “Those were extenuating circumstances,” he explained in that frustrated, slow, adult way. “You're the bloody Slayer's sister. Most vamps'd pick their teeth with your bones.”
She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout. “You're not very nice.”
“And finally, she gets it.”
Dawn huffed her loudest huff, then stomped over to the passenger side of the car, wrenching the door open as he slammed the lid of the trunk. There was a blood-splattered duffel bag on the front seat and she wrinkled her nose, waiting with arms crossed for him to shift it.
He slid into the driver's seat and knocked the duffel into her foot well.
“Gross,” she told him, clambering onto the front seat but sticking her feet up on the dashboard rather than letting her sneakers touch the icky floor.
He pressed his right fist to his temple, his face screwing up in irritation. “What was I thinking?” he muttered fiercely to himself, looking wild. “What was I thinking? Should've drained the bint and then taken Dru hard and fast without bloody brooding over it. What the sodding hell was I--”
“Are you crazy?” Dawn asked bluntly, scuffing her toes against the black paint on his windscreen and watching chunks of it fleck off. “If you are, I probably shouldn't be in your car.”
He ignored her, dropping his tightly clenched fist and shoving the key into the ignition instead.
“Mom says I shouldn't go anywhere with strangers.”
He ignored her.
“Spike's a dumb name.”
“Shut up,” he told her, glaring ahead as he revved the engine and pulled the car back out onto the bumpy open road.
Dawn sulked, glaring at the painted window like it was to blame. “I want to go home.”
Spike drove in silence and Dawn bit her lips until they hurt. The night outside was dark and full of strange, twisty shadows, though the moon looked close enough to throw pebbles at. The cars they passed were old and beat-up, and the people inside didn't look like they'd be very interested in helping her.
“Put your seat belt on,” Spike said abruptly, like he'd just then remembered about road safety.
She glanced at him suspiciously. “You're not wearing one.”
“I'm already dead, you brat. Put your seat belt on.”
She rolled her eyes very dramatically again, and then thought about how satisfying it was to express one's superiority in such a way. “You don't care.”
“Beg to differ,” the vampire snapped, looking at her with flinty, narrowed eyes. She curled away from his glare instinctively. “I just threw away my sire for you, child – that's a hundred plus years of love and devotion and--” he thumped his fist against the steering wheel, looking away again. “Got no sodding clue why I did it – but I'll be damned if I see your bloody corpse going through the windscreen after that.”
For almost no reason at all, Dawn found herself fighting that prickling feeling behind the nose that comes right before tears. “I hate you.”
“I want to go home.”
“That's wherewe're going, you insufferable bint.”
Dawn sniffed loudly, biting her lips again to keep them from going wobbly. She put her forehead against the grimy window, and caught a blurry view of her reflection in the wing mirror. Her eyes looked too big, everything else too small.
They went over a rock in the road and her head bumped the glass – it was almost too much.
“Okay. I shouldn't have snapped,” the vamp said after a moment or two. His words sounded slow and too deliberate, like when an adult says something they don't really mean. “I am taking you home, little bit. Don't fret.”
“I'm not scared,” Dawn said. Too fast. She pressed herself closer to the window, getting sooty blank paint on the end of her nose.
“All right,” he said. He put his own seat belt on then – she heard the cu-click of it. It sounded very ordinary, like school runs with mom and Buffy, or driving back from grandma's house late at night. Then he turned on the radio, twisting the knob to trawl through Latin American music until he found something cheerful enough and stayed on it. “We'll call your mum at the next gas station – tell her we're on our way. And we can pick up some grub, too. You must be hungry.”
She looked at him carefully from the corner of her eye. “Chips?”
He glanced at her and their stares met. He looked a little nervous, in secret, same as her. “Is that what you eat?”
He sucked his cheeks in hard, making the bones stand out. “Think I'll ask your mum.”
“Ugh,” Dawn groused, anxiety evaporating in an instant. “You are such a boring grown up.”
Spike snorted at that.
This story was written in two manic weekends, in response to Tempestt and Mia Vaan's challenges (linked at the top). It is complete at 8 chapters (all around 3000 words each, aside from this one) and I will be posting every day!
I'm currently living in Vietnam, but I lived in Colombia from 2013-2014 and have traveled extensively in South America. It's one of my favorite parts of the world: the people are warm, the culture is incredible, the landscapes are out of this world! The music, the dancing, the food! Oh! Writing this story has been like going back. I really hope you enjoy the places that we visit along the way!
The title of this story comes from the song 'Beginners' by folksy Swedish singer/songwriter The Tallest Man on Earth, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CYi2j-V8lQ
Thank you so much for reading the first chapter. If you have a spare few minutes, I really hope you'll spend them letting me know what you thought.