Sundowning - Pick A Peck Of Pickled Peppers



"I don't give a damn about your soddin' opinions Watcher!" He says poking his finger in my chest. "I made the bloody twit a promise and I intend to keep it. I don't understand why you're being so damn stubborn about all this. I've helped before."
"Yes Spike." I say angrily. "Always for a price though."
"Excuse you bucko but the last time I helped you I was forced to take a nosedive off a bleedin' tower and the only payment I got for that was hitting the concrete at a good two hundred miles an hour!"
"I will not tell you what you want to know Spike." And I cross my arms over my chest and sit in one of my chairs. The best signal I can use to imply the conversation is over.
"Then how am I supposed to protect Dawn if I don't know how or why others might use her?" He insists.
"It's quite simple." I say sharply while picking up a book on the table. I'm not sure which one it is but I wish to use it more as a prop to indicate I want Spike to go away. I peer at him over the top edge of the book. "You don't." I say.
Spike stands beside the chair and leans over slowly putting the tips of his fingers just a hairsbreath underneath my chin.
"I made the Slayer a promise 'Ripper'." He snarls. "It would be a very bad mistake to try and convince me otherwise."
"You cannot harm me Spike." I growl back. "Please take your undead male bravado and leave my home."
"You're holding the book upside down." He says in my ear.
Against my will my eyes flash to the page I randomly opened the book too. The text is not upside down but in it's proper place. Spike ..ahem..beeps me on the nose.
"Gotcha." He smiles at me and steps away from the chair.
"Of course you're right Watcher, I can't hurt you...more's the pity..physically at least; but let me introduce to a scenario."
He reaches into his pocket and retrieves his lighter. "This is called 'fire'." And he flicks a small flame into existence.
"This." And he gestures with his other arm to take in all my books lining shelf after shelf. "Is called 'fuel'." He smiles at me, a very friendly, welcome smile but since I know what's behind it all it looks, in truth, very, very unpleasant. "Catch my drift...mate?" He's still smiling.
"Get out." I say horsely. I swallow a few times to moisten my throat and lurch to my feet. "Get Out!!" I bellow in his face.
Spike inhales deeply. "Mmmm...bacon..and...lettuce sandwich with mayonnaise and..don't tell me..don't tell me..a hint of mustard. Am I right?"
I blink a few times. "Uh..and tomatoes." I mumble.
Spike snaps his fingers, "I always miss tomatoes." He bemoans then his other hands shoves the lighter, long since extinguished, back in his jacket pocket.
"Wasn't I telling you to get out my home a few minutes ago?" I ask.
"You were and I was ignoring you." Spike answers quickly thumping his fingers in my face like one brushes away a fly.
"Because you still haven't answered my question Giles old chum."
"I am not your chum." I try and interrupt but he rides past me.
"Actually you haven't answered several questions I asked." He cocks his head to the side.
"First," He says counting with his pointer finger. "You won't tell me what other threats the little bit could be used for, or attacked for. Second.." and he counts this with his middle finger. "You won't tell me why you won't tell me, citing only that you don't believe that Buffy..." his voice fades away.
He seems to think for a few seconds.
"Of course that's it isn't?" He says finally, quietly.
"What's it?" I protest, feigning ignorance.
"She asked me." He says in that quite voice. "She asked _me_ to protect Dawn. Not you, not The Scoobs, me. Spike, your 'enemy'."
"That..that.." Damn this stutter. "That has nothing to do with it."
"Oh please Watcher. It's bad enough you're lying to me, but to yourself? I though you were far more clever." He shrugs his shoulders. "But this is just the final nail in the coffin of my belief that you're a total idiot."
I really wish to strike him. Instead I just let my reflexes take over and, of course, I find myself taking off my glasses and rubbing the bridge of my nose.
"I have no idea what you're talking about Spike." I murmur.
He reaches out casually and with a slight shove sends me stumbling backwards back into my seat. I say 'ow' hoping to trigger the chip in his head, petty perhaps but I'm not exactly at my best.
"No headache for the vamp today Watcher." Spike smirks. "I was very careful." He sits down on the cushion directly across from me.
"Now you hear my out 'Ripper' and you hear me out good." He pokes a finger at me. "Loathe as I am to admit it Buffy's choice made good sense. From a strategic point of view."
"Strategic." I snort.
"Bloody hell you're thick." Spike sighs. "Are you as strong as I am? Can you move as fast? Can you get shot in the soddin' head and still smile for the camera? No? Golly jee whiz boss, I wonder why not! Probably that whole 'I'm a human bean' thing. Whoops, but hold on a mo' human beans are somewhat fragile and..horrors..I'm not! Gosh, how about that then squire?"
"And daylight?" I shoot back.
"Well..there is a reason the whole menagerie of hell is usually categorized under 'creatures of the Night!!" Spike shakes his head again.
"Alright. Let's try this approach then." He says after a few seconds. "And hold on to yer hat gentlemen, Spike is going to get all," He gives an exaggerated gasp. "Touchy Feeley!"
I ignore the sarcasm, though he is actually quite good at it, resign myself to my fate and set the book aside. I reach for the cup of tea beside where it lay instead. Ah..tepid. Of course, why should anything this evening go right? Why should anything recently go correctly?
'No' I hear my voice in my head. 'Nothing has gone right since she left us. Taken actually.'
We're all so lost. Floundering. Oh I'm not blind I see what's happening. I read it about it in so many novels..yes I read novels not just mythology..the funny thing is the authors were absolutely correct. We have died inside. A very large hole seems to be ..somewhere inside me. Focus, concentration.. I remember those things but I cannot recall, for the life of me, how those things worked.
Oh I try and focus, on Dawn mostly. She's my charge now, my responsibility. Only recently has there even been a minor breakthrough. She was able to sleep throughout the night without screaming..or crying.. She did not need me with her last night to sleep. When he woke up she instantly realized this and this set off an entire pinwheel of guilt. Guilt based on her belief that she's 'forgetting' her sister.
Which is utter nonsense. One could no more forget Buffy than you could ...could... Nothing compares adequately in mind. I ..miss Buffy. I miss her very much.
I nod. As if I'm listening to Spike, but I'm not. My thoughts are..elsewhere. Somewhere. I can't even really keep track of them, after ..I glance at my watch..it's nearly been six weeks. Six weeks and we're all still reeling. My mind starts down a road..a road I don't want to see. Memories, like butterflies, pay no heed and flicker where they will.
Willow.
If there was ever a more tragic figure I do not know them. We have..all mourned, are mourning in our own ways. Dawn's burdens, while terrible are being dealt with. All of us... are..handling things as best we can. Xander and Anya, together. Thing were rough between them at first, everything between us all has been rough. But we're handling it. That was the first positive sign, when all of them, Tara, Xander, and Anya volunteered to begin patrols, actually Tara would aid me in research. Spike's questions aside I was, and have been, very concerned with possible ..uses there could be for Dawn. She was, and is, still The Key. A single drop of blood was enough to tear open all of reality. What kind of mystical energy does she have? We had to know and thus our research began. Of course she knows none of this, being content to just have us around, occasionally going on the odd patrol despite my vehement objections. I gave up after the third time she snuck out the window.
I took it as a good thing when Willow herself showed up a few days later, also looking to go on the odd patrol. I really should have known better.
Tara later came to tell me that Willow has not spoken to her since ..that night. They no longer have been practicing spells or socializing of any kind. Tara insisted, once again, that Willow was 'eaten'. I heard similar news from Xander and Anya. I know for myself that Willow had come here on occasion, asking for the odd tome or other bit of information.
Then she started doing the patrols. Alone. Every night.
"Which is why, Giles my bestest british buddy in the whole wide world, I believe a banana would look better transplanted to replace your nose."
I nod. "Quite right Spike. An excellent point...uh..sorry?"
Spike sighs and puts his head in hands. "You weren't listening to bloody word I was saying were you."
It's not a question.
"No. No I wasn't Spike. I would apologize but that might indicate I give a damn regarding your feelings." I snap.
"Hey, hey now Watcher, no need to be all ...violent and..petty." Spike replies, I notice him eyeing the swords on the wall behind me. I smile inwardly.
"To recap," He says. "I don't have a clue why you're so upset. Buffy wouldn't have asked you, she didn't need to. She knew you'd do it anyway and, can you really blame her for being..a little too clear headed. After everything that happened to her?" He raises his eyebrows. "She was thinking like a warrior, more Slayer, than Buffy. I'm surprised you weren't all for it what with you watchers being more hellbent on makin' the chickies soddin' weapons and not people!"
"That's beside the point!" I thunder back slamming my fist on the table. The cup of tea jumps into the air and falls back to the table, lands badly and tumbles to the floor. I want to jump to catch it but, predictably, instinct makes me cringe in the opposite direction.
It's a simple china cup and it shatters easily. The tea spreads rapidly over the floor, a small pool, nothing a few seconds with a rag couldn't clean up.
"That could be the Little Bits fate." Spike says quietly. "Broken, shattered and drained. Spread out on a cold cement floor somewhere."
I slowly lift my head up and look at him. He's not smiling, his face isn't some delighted sneer, his features are set quite relaxed. His tone strong, voice, serious.
"Tell me what I need to know Watcher. Tell me who would want to hurt her. Not even because she is the key, merely because she was related to The Slayer." He says again, quite placidly.
"Damn...damn you." I say horsely. "But... I'll tell you what you need to know, or, at the very least, try and find out."
Spike nods, his features never changing. "Good." He says getting to his feet and shrugging out of his duster. "This will take a good part of the night so I'll get us a fresh pot of tea."
I look up, a bit surprised. Spike likes tea?
He pauses as he walks past me. "Do you..eh..prefer sugar or O negative in yours?" He asks.
I just sigh, and find myself removing my glasses again to rub my nose.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Mmmm..wha..what was that noise? Thought I heard something...breaking?
Oh..just Spike and Giles. Not worth listening too, I don't want to hear anything they might be saying. Prophecies, boogie men, objects of power that kind of stuff. I've had my fill, even if I might be one, I've had my fill..never never wanna know about it again.
I cross my 'room'. It's nice of Giles to let me stay here, though he did insist I not be alone. The window is open and a cool breeze is making the curtains billow out. I open them and look outside.
There's a break in the clouds, ah..there's the moon. She's not very big..not even halfway full.
I rest my elbows on the windowsill and my head in my hands, just..gonna look for a few minutes, then..maybe go back to sleep.
It must be so simple being the moon. Just..hang in the sky, go in circles... Not like being The Key. Just..be some rock. Occasionally pull some water this way and that.
What...what was it my teacher told me? Seems like so long ago. Oh that's right. The moon..has a darkside or something, never faces the Earth. I guess even very large pieces of stone hanging in midair even have secrets.
Is that where you are Sis? Other side of the moon..straight on till morning? Or am I getting my stories mixed up... not too sure.
Can you see me Buffy? Wherever you are? I haven't gone into your stuff y'know. Haven't even touched the door really. See? I'm respectful of your property. Little sis isn't snoopin' around anymore Buffy. Not going to poke and pry my nose where it don't belong. Nope, I'll let you...leave..you...I mean.
Is it raining? Oh..no of course not. That's just my tears on the windowsill. About time really. Where have you guys been? I haven't cried for..oh..at least eight hours. I was thinkin' something was wrong with me for a minute there.
Hello tears, hello sobs. Hello salty goodness to lick off my lips every..five or so minutes. Hello ache in my chest, hello hole in my ...me.
Goodbye sis.
Heh heh..y'know if some company found a way to sharpen knives so they were as sharp as these holes in me they'd make a fortune.
Mmm..
Shhhh..don't cry too loudly. Don't want Giles bursting through the door. Shhh... I know..I'll go cry into Mr. Gordo.
Oh. Oh..I'm sorry Buffy, I ..lied. Accidently. I did take Mr. Gordo. Well, didn't exactly take, Xander gave it to me, he though you'd want me to have him. No, no you're right of course, he's not mine, he's yours. I'll put him back tomorrow. Go home, to ..to ..uh..our house and put him back where he belongs. Y'know, upper left corner of the bed, with just the edge of the covers covering him so he doesn't get cold. We have to take care of our pigs.
Buffy?
Would...would you mind terribly if..if I didn't put Mr. Gordo back? Can I keep him? Just..y'know just for a little while?
He's...very..fuzzy..and warm. He smells like you..didja know that? No, no I don't sniff him. I just sorta realized it a few nights ago.
I'll show you..I'll prove it to you I'm taking good care of him..hold on. Don't go anywhere alright?


Back. See? Here he is? Pink and..uh..both eyes are here. I even washed him..just once. He's fine. We're both...
What am I doing?
God Buffy, you can't hear me. Whoops, see? I'm doing it again.
I've..I've gone bonkers, talking to my de..dea...
Is Mom okay Buffy? Mr. Gordo misses her..we both do.

*********************************************************************************************************************

"Dawn? What on Earth are you doing up at this hour?"
I ignore the pile of open books surrounding Giles and Spike as I stumble down the stairs.
"Catch." I mumble. The stuffed animal lands in Giles surprised lap. "Mr. Gordo was hungry. So am I. What we got to eat?"
"Um..there's a bit of chicken in the fridge if you care to make a sandwich." Giles stutters.
I shrug and look at Spike.
"Evenin' pet." He says.
He's sitting..slouching really..legs crossed in one of Giles chairs. We just look at each other for a moment.
"Well?" I finally ask. "Aren't you going to ask me how I'm doing? Everybody else does." I roll my eyes. "Constantly."
Spike leans forward and clasps his hands together. "Let me think." He says slowly. "You recently lost your identity, your mother, and, as of a few weeks ago, your sister. Add to that an absent father... Hmm. I don't think I need to waste the breath, not that I have any in the first place, to even ask when I can easily figure out the answer for myself. You're doing bloody lousy."
That said he sits back and picks up a tea cup and takes a careful sip, not looking away from me the entire time. My left knee starts to shake..badly. Spike just went all blurry. The whole room just went all blurry...do I still have legs? I can't feel them anymore.
"How DARE you?" I hear Giles thunder behind me. "Get out! Get out of this house and don't you-"
"How can I dare not?" Spike shouts back, despite the ferocity of his voice and face, he's being really careful to put the teacup down. "It's the truth, she's been royally fucked over by life and you all are tiptoeing around the entire time."
Heehee..he said 'fuck'. Buffy would have a cow if heard him.
"Let's face it Watcher," Spike continues ranting. "None of you have been up front with the issue and it's been..what..six weeks now? Bugger that, I say just make her eat the facts and give her time to chew and swallow!"
Giles crosses the room and yanks Spike from his chair. Spike doesn't resist.
Mmm..I'm kneeling now. Rooms still blurry, I don't think I'm actually sobbing, which means I have my voice. Time to use it.
"SHUT!!" Deep breath. "UP!!" I scream.
Giles and Spike just stare at me. Giles is still holding Spike by his collar
"Just..just..just shut up!" I wail again. "Shut up the both of you!"
I lose control for a minute and they stand statue like not reacting as I try and push the cries long enough to continue.
"He's ..y'know..right. Spike is. " I say. "Everyone has been so nice, and caring and lovable and fluffy, but you don't seem to realize..you're drowning me in it! How can I ..can I..how can we get..uh..better, over it..move on..oh God I don't want too though! What if we..we forget her? No we could never do that but it.." I pause and start tapping at my temple. "It's always the same thing, 'Are you alright Dawn, 'can we get you anything Dawn?' 'Are you sure you're alright Dawn?' And it's just pounding and pounding and...y'know." My voice dies away along with the sudden fury. "Pounding and stuff."
Spike, still being almost throttled by Giles, starts to smirk and a fresh wave of anger washes over me.
"You can keep on shutting up too Spike!" I push past Giles who releases his grip so I'm standing right if front of Spike pushing my finger in his face. "High and mighty Mr. Vampire. Oh, sure you say you don't care, that we're all pathetic little meals on wheels but if that's the case then why the hell are you here? Why you making such a big deal about protectin' me from all the nasty whoitwhatits still mucking around this ...hellhole? And what about..about..all this 'advice'? Huh? What's up..with..all that crap? It's good advice actually, and you just keep goin' on an' on about how you just say it cause you like to watch us hurt. Yeah..right." I snort disdainfully. "As if."
Nobody says anything, Giles is just ..y'know...behind me so I'm not sure what he's lookin' like but Spike is all straight and lookin' down on me, trying to be intimidating but I'm just not in the mood to be intimidated. I go in for one last shot.
'C'mon Mr. Answer-Man, 'scuse me, Answer-Vamp. What's up with that huh? C'mon..tell me. Let's here what.." I take a deep breath. "The FUCK is up with THAT?"
As I scream the 'That' I give him a really hard push, fourteen year old muscles don't add up too much but he does have to take a step back so as not to be knocked over. Go Dawnie, go Dawnie, go, go, go Dawnie!
Spike looks at me, he actually looks a little startled and then looks over my head at Giles. I guess..maybe he realizes how..um..open he looks because I can see, almost see I mean, the steel slam over his eyes and that..ratty little predatory gleam pop up.
"Giles." Spike says. "What have you been teaching the la-"
I slap him.
"DON'T IGNORE THE QUESTION!!" I scream in his face.
Spike just claps a hand to his cheek and looks doubly startled.
And then..of course..rage sputters out and I realize just what I've done, what I've said and to who've I've said it. Both of the who'ves...who's I mean.
My knees are going to start knocking together any second now, better idea..let's collapse. Okay. They're collapsing.
My knees hit the floor with an audible crack, it hurts but..but..
"OhGodI'msorrypleasedon'thateme!" I squeak.
What the hell was I doing?
What the hell was I doing?
What the hell was I doing?
over and over and over and over..
what the hell was I doing?
what the hell was I doing?
God..I was doing THAT??
So, predictably, tear glands go into overdrive. I think I'll eat some potato chips with that chicken sandwich, have to replace all this salt y'know.
"Please don't hate me. Please don't hate me. Please don't hate me." I say again and again between sobs.
It takes a few second but I guess Giles snaps into action. I feel his hands on my shoulder in a supportive gesture, the closest I'm guessing his british nature will allow in place of an actual hug. It's enough.
"Hate you? Lords no Dawn. We could never hate you. I, uh, we had no idea you were feeling this way."
"Thats," I swallow down another bout of sobs. "That's okay Giles, I wasn't exactly aware of it myself. It kinda jumped out at me. Boo! Y'know?"
"Yes, yes of course I can understand. Really. I think, I'm not quite sure honestly but..yes." Giles stammers out an attempt to be comforting. It's kinda funny despite the circumstances. "We shall..try to refrain from being so overbearing so..uh.. no more killing with kindness. Agreed?"
"Did you have to use the word 'killing'? "I wince.
"Oh..yes..right! Sorry." Giles hastily amends. "But no, we don't hate you, could never hate you." He glances around for support. "Isn't that correct Spike?"
Spike still hasn't moved, his eyes have glazed over slightly, hand still clasped to the cheek that was struck. His jaw is slightly slack too. Did I break him?
"Spike!" Giles says a bit more forcefully. "We could never hate Dawn isn't that right?!?"
Spike snaps too.
He keeps his hand to his face and turns his head until his eyes are bearing down on me with all the force and vehemence of a hundred years of hatred. Or, a royally honked off vamp.
Then he smiles, a big smile that reaches even his eyes and the fire there just winks out.
"Hate her Giles?" Spike says slowly. "By George I absolutely _ADORE_ the lassie!"
He swoops down, grabs me and spins me in the air like a rag doll before any of us can react.
He only spins twice but that makes me seriously dizzy. So I don't really react when he plants a really big wet one on my cheek. Yuck! Vamp slobber.
"This is the ballsiest chippie I have ever met!" He crows. "Did you see her? All in my face and charged up? Gods above I've disembowled people for just lookin' at me funny and she bloody well knows it, but does she back down? Does she cowtow under?" He chuckles mirthlessly. "Too right she does not!"
He puts me down, I'm still woozy.
Spike throws his arm around my shoulder. "This little bit o'monster bait goes up against William the Bloody and never backs down. Hate her Giles? Are you totally teetotaled or something?" He laughs again. "I'm a fan of hers for life!"
I look up slowly to look at Spike, expecting a sneer, some mask slipping away to reveal a sarcastic edge. He's..actually quite honest looking right now. Wow.
Giles, on the other hand, looks somewhat flustered.
"Yes..well. That's a ..ah..yes I take it. Good." He pauses and gives Spike a pained glance. "Please don't call me Giles." he adds.
Spike catches my eyes with his own and does a slow, evil, wink. How do you _do_ an evil wink anyway?
"Of course Giles." Spike says. "I'm sorry about that ..Giles..what could I have been thinking...Giles. Only those close to you can call you 'Giles'..Giles. I, not being particularly close, should only refer to you as 'Watcher' or 'Stupid Git' on every second Tuesday. Isn't that right...Giles? Is that what you'd like..Giles?"
Giles simply sighs and rubs his eyes. "Yes...quite. Exactly that. Thanks ever so much...Bill."
I gape. Spike gapes.. Giles WON?
It's all a bit too much and my poor self overloads. Emotions, tempers, tears, sobs, jokes, gaffs and going toe to toe with a murderous fiend. These things just knock your feet out from under you.
A smile? I'm smiling? No..that's not right. Gravity's gone backwards, that's it..more likely at any rate. Yeah, gravity went all wonky and..no..I'm still on the floor. Jee..maybe it is a smi..what's that weird noise?
Someone's laughing..me? I'm laughing? And..wow..now I'm really close to the floor..I fell over. Whoops, laughing really hard now.
Hey, someone else is laughing..why it's Giles! We're both laughing! That's just all screwy now isn't it. Spike isn't laughing. He looks all grouchy sitting in his chair with his arms crossed. He's pouting.
Pouty Spike! Pouty Spike!
I'm laughing and laughing and it feels so good, clean, clean..and it's just..and I'm so..wow..yeah..I'm a wow!
Wow!
Heh..pouty Spike!
Wow.
Laughter's ending...laughter's going..but that's okay..I feel..good. Because of the laughter, the...ow..my chest hurts but..it still feels good.
Laughter's gone now, but that's okay. It didn't end in tears.
Giles is sitting now, a big ol' smile on his face as he sips his tea.
My stomach growls.
"Can I have that sandwich?" I ask.

*********************************************************************************************************************

"G'night Giles, G'night Spike." I say from the foot of the stairs.
My stomach is full, and I'm actually pretty tired. It's late.
"Hey Pet, catch yerself." Spike says tossing Mr. Gordo in a lazy underhand. I snatch him out of the air. "Little porker reminds me too much of supper." Spike growls.
"Thanks Spike." I say.
He just growls and looks away.
"Do you nee-" Giles starts to speak and I just glare at him.
"Oh..yes. Of course, sorry." Giles stammers. "Habits and all that." He looks abashed. "Good night Dawn."
I head up the stairs and as I enter my room I hear Spike, in a hurt voice, whine. "Bill?"
I just close the door and go over to the window.
The moon is still there, in the sky, she's settling on the horizon, and not even half full she seems so big. Warm, and big and friendly. I seat Mr. Gordo on the sill. So he can see too.
Tears begin to slide down my cheeks again. It's okay though, they're quite, peaceful tears. They don't hurt, they don't even burn a little. I bet if I licked em' off they wouldn't even taste salty, just clean. ..like me.
"I miss you Buffy." I whisper too the moon. "I'm going to sleep now, keep the nightmares away? Please?"
Must be the tears in my eyes, really. The moon, she can't wink at you..can she?


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