"But mum, I don't want to go to school today," Spike whined, earning a giggle from Dawn as he
pulled the DeSoto to the curb outside of Dawn's school. He turned off the engine, pocketed the
keys, and picked up the thick blanket on the seat between them. "Do you have all the papers?"
"In my pack," Dawn confirmed. She grabbed the car door handle. "See you at the door."
Spike cracked his side window and watched Dawn walk quickly and with her head down to the side
doors of the high school. She opened one of the glass doors and held it, waiting for Spike.
The vampire wrapped the blanket around him, climbed out of the car, and hurried through the
morning sun into the school. His going outside during the day wasn't as nerve-wracking as it once
was; he'd learned exactly how long and to what extent that he could be exposed to daylight without
turning into a crispy critter.
In the safety of the school corridor, Spike ran his fingers through his hair, then rolled up the blanket
and gave it to Dawn in exchange for the envelope filled with "legal" papers. Students were already
in their first period classes, so the halls were empty. Dawn led the way to the administration office,
her feet squeaking on the tiled floor.
"Are you sure you don't want to finish the term?" Spike asked. They'd had a long discussion about
her schooling that morning over breakfast -- a meal Spike shouldn't have been having in a normal
world. But the world wasn't normal anymore. Dawn had suggested never returning to school, but
Spike had vetoed that with an "If I had to go, so do you." That lead to bouncing and "story! story!"
which Spike wiggled out of, though he bet that his reprieve was only temporary.
"Yeah," Dawn replied. She gave him a sad look. "I won't be able to concentrate anyway, so it's
better if I just wait until summer school starts to come back."
"About summer school, luv," he said. "You don't have to go if you don't want to, either. You can
wait until fall term, if you wish."
She shook her head. "If I don't go to summer school, I'll be held back and I so don't want to be a
Freshman again." She pointed to a closed door on the right. "This is it."
Spike opened the door and held it for Dawn to proceed him into the administration office. The
trilling of the phone, shuffling of papers, and multiple conversations greeted them. Several students
were lined in hard plastic chairs along the wall, all with various degrees of fear etched on their faces.
Dawn went right up to the chest-high counter and addressed the harried-looking older woman behind
it. "Hi, Mrs. McCarthy."
Mrs. McCarthy looked up from her computer, rhinestone glasses perched on the end of her nose.
"Dawn Summers," she said, standing and putting her hand on the girl's arm. "Honey, I'm so sorry."
Spike snorted and Dawn grimaced. "Thanks, Mrs. McCarthy," she said stiffly. She stepped back
from the counter, distancing herself from the sympathetic secretary. "Uh, Spike and I are here to see
Mrs. McCarthy looked Spike over, disdain flitting over her features before settling into bland
indifference. "I'll let Principal Stevens know that you're here," she said, picking up the phone. She
gestured towards the chairs. "You may wait over there."
Dawn turned around, looked at Spike, and rolled her eyes. Spike winked at the girl and they both
chose to lean against the wall instead of sitting.
"I need a fag," Spike muttered, meeting the secretary's evil eye with one of his own.
"You shouldn't smoke," Dawn tut-tutted. "Those thing'll kill me."
"Clever, pet," Spike commented. "Very clever."
"Dawn," Principal Stevens called from her open door, wearing a pleasant smile. "Mr. Landess,
come in, please."
"C'mon, 'Mr. Landess,'" Dawn teased, pushing off the wall. Spike lightly tugged her single braid
in retort and followed her into the Principal's office.
"Hello, Mr. Landess." The Principal held out her hand. "I'm Principal Stevens."
"Call me Spike," Spike said, accepting her handshake.
"Very well... Spike." Principal Stevens gestured to the chairs in front of her desk as she moved
behind it. "I understand you are here to discuss Dawn's schooling."
"Yeah." Spike passed her the envelope in his hand. "That's certified copies of the papers naming
me as Dawn's legal guardian. Dawn won't be returning to school this term, but we want to get her
into summer school so she can obtain her credits and move onto the next, er, grade level in August."
"I see no reason why that cannot be arranged," Principal Stevens said, setting the papers from the
envelope aside. "Dawn is an excellent student, and allowances can be made due to the
"Gracious of you," Spike said sardonically. "Just let us know how to go about signing her up and
we'll be on our way."
"Mrs. McCarthy will give you the forms, including the papers needed to be filled out for the
next school year. You may complete them at home and mail or return them here by the dates
indicated on the forms," the Principal said, rising from her seat. She extended her hand again. "It
was good to meet you, Mr... Spike."
"Right." Spike shook her hand and then wiped his on his jeans. "C'mon, bite size."
"Bye, Principal Stevens," Dawn said with a wan smile.
"Goodbye, Dawn," Principal Stevens said. "Again, I'm sorry for your loss."
"Why do people apologize when someone dies?" Dawn asked Spike as they waited for Mrs.
McCarthy to get the paperwork for them. "They didn't make Buffy jump or cause Mom's brains to
explode. Why should they be sorry?"
"They're apologizing because they're glad it's not them that lost a loved one and they feel guilty
because they're glad when you're hurting," Spike replied matter-of-factly.
"I'd rather they said 'I'm glad it's not me,'" Dawn grumbled. "At least it'd be the truth."
"Yeah, but you humans, on the whole, have an aversion to hurting each others' feelings," Spike
said. He pointed to a girl sitting on a chair. "Like if she were to ask you how she looked, you
wouldn't say she resembled a circus tent, even if it's the truth."
"Spike!" Dawn hissed, socking him on the arm.
"Here you are, Mr. Landess." Mrs. McCarthy held a manila envelope out over the counter. "Just
fill these out and drop them off or mail them back to the school."
As Spike took the envelope, she addressed Dawn. "When you clean out your locker, sweety, just
leave your textbooks inside. I'll make sure they are returned to the proper teachers."
"Okay, Mrs. McCarthy," Dawn said. She grabbed Spike's arm and dragged him out of the
administration office before the secretary could apologize for Dawn's loss again.
"Meet you in the motor, ducks?" Spike inquired once they were in the hall.
Dawn agreed, gave him the blanket, and they split up. Dawn headed for her locker, eyes down as
the bell rang for classes to let out. She didn't want to see any of her friends. Trying to explain to
them that, over the past few weeks, she'd been chased by knights, terrorized by a hellgod, and had
watched Buffy jump to her death wasn't something she wanted to do.
She opened her locker and rapidly stuffed her pack with her notebooks, sweater, gym clothes, and
other miscellaneous stuff. She pulled a few things off her locker door, then froze when she saw the
picture of Buffy, her Mom, and her that she'd tacked up shortly after her Mom's death. Now, she
was the only one alive still from the picture. The last Summers... who wasn't really a true Summers,
just some key some damn monks made human.
The tears came hot and fierce, and Dawn slammed the locker shut, grabbed her pack, and fled down
the hall. A few of her friends saw her and called out, but she ignored them.
"Dawn, what--" Spike's question was cut off as the dark-haired girl, who'd jumped into the car,
threw her arms around his neck and squeezed tightly.
"They're dead, they're dead, they're dead, they're dead...," Dawn sobbed in his ear.
"Ah, sweets." Spike embraced the young girl, closing his eyes as tears of grief filled them. "I know,
pet. I know."
Eventually, Dawn stopped crying, tiny hiccoughs and sniffles following in her tears' wake. She
extracted herself from Spike's comforting hug and moved to the passenger side of the car. "Sorry,"
she mumbled, wiping her cheeks with her sleeve.
"Nothing to be sorry about," Spike countered, surreptitiously wiping at his own face. He cleared his
throat and started the DeSoto. "Ready to go home?"
"No." Dawn stared morosely at the blacked-out front window.
"Well then, where to?"
The brunette looked down at the picture half-crushed in her hand and carefully smoothed it out.
"Can we go to The Magic Box? I'm in the mood to hear you guys fight over me."
Spike smiled. "How selfish of you. I like."
Dawn's lips twitched. "Why did I choose you over Giles as my guardian?"
"You're a Summers, ducks," Spike gave her a wicked grin, "and no Summers can resist me."
The faint smile faded. "Yeah, a Summers."
"You are," Spike emphasized. "Don't get it into your girly head that you're just some energy blob
the monks made human."
"How did you know that's what I was thinking?" Dawn asked in wonder.
"I'm Spike. I know everything," he replied cockily.
"Did you know you're an idiot?"
Dawn laughed. Spike smiled again and half-turned on the seat. "Listen, pet," he began. "I've been
around for a long while now, and I've learned that there are only three absolute truths: one, the
world is round; two, Angelus cannot sing; and three, Buffy has a sister named Dawn that she loved
very, very much."
Tears of a different kind fell softly down Dawn's cheeks. "I don't know why Buffy didn't love
Spike faced forward and concentrated on putting the car in gear. "'Cause I'm a bad, bad man,
niblet," he said gruffly. "And don't you forget it."
"Badder than Angel when he sings?" Dawn asked mischievously.
"Hell, no. No one's that bad."