Everything Old Is New Again
by Kyra Cullinan

Dawn's wearing lipgloss she swiped from Buffy's dresser, and it tastes sticky and strange when she licks her lips. The lipgloss is for the party and the party -- well, sucks in the same boring, depressing way all parties have since middle school or so. This is someone's house, someone's mom's house, and she's sitting on the end of the couch holding a red plastic cup and trying to look cool while a couch cushion away two juniors suck face.

The zipper noise from their general vicinity is where she draws the line, though -- she stands up like the thought has just occurred to her and pretends she's decided to wander away from the couch for no particular reason. The condensation on the cup makes her hand wet when she shifts her grip. It's half full of beer and the other half is inside her, which doesn't seem to have done anything except make all the lights maybe a little brighter, make her like the music more than she would normally -- and she can't believe that they're actually playing blink-182. It's so loud she can't hear anyone talking, just the stupid high school boys yelling as they jump around in a fake mosh pit they've made between the kitchen and the pushed back coffee table. But even that's better than listening to Kennedy and Rona screaming at each other again and Dawn weaves her way around them and over toward the stairs.

No one knows she's here, which is the best part or the worst part depending on how you look at it. This new girl in her history class had stopped her on the way out and said, "Hey, there's this party," but five minutes after they got here she disappeared upstairs with some guy from the soccer team, leaving Dawn down here wandering.

She's beside the staircase, squeezing past bodies when a girl laughs and a guy's voice answers and she stops dead and turns back around.

"SPIKE?" she says, a little too loudly and three people turn to look including the stupid, bleach-head vampire in the corner. He pushes off from where he's been leaning on the wall, leaning over the laughing girl and turns to face her. His eyes look unfocused for a second but then he just looks like himself.

"Dawn," he says, and it sounds as strange as ever, her actual name from his mouth. She glances around at everyone staring and lowers her voice.

"What are you doing here?" she hisses. The girl Spike was talking to puts a hand on her hip and glares daggers at Dawn, who does her best to ignore it as her brain catches up with the situation. "Did Buffy follow you?"

Neither of them is supposed to know Buffy's been tailing Spike for a week now, suspicious about something or other, but subtle her sister is not.

"'Course not," he says. "Lost her in the gr-- across town."

"Um, excuse me?" says the girl pointedly and Dawn remembers she's not supposed to care about him anymore, about his stupid life and what he does with girls or -- anything.

"Fine," she says. "Whatever." Turns like she actually has somewhere to go, instead of just vaguely toward the kitchen to pour out the rest of her drink.

He catches up to her as she reaches the doorway and swings around to block her way.

"Big sis doesn't know you're here, then?" he says. "Back to sneaking around town, Bit?"

"Don't call me that," she says, grips the cup in her hand 'til it starts to crinkle. "Don't ever fucking call me that."

He looks at her without saying anything and she goes to move around him.

"No," he says. "I'll take you home."

"I don't need your help," she says. "I have a ride."

"Oh yeah?" he says. "With who?"

"My friend Sarah," she says, forgetting that she's trying to not even look at him. "She's right upstairs."

"Ah," he says, and folds his arms. "Blonde girl, curly hair? Sucking her boyfriend off in the bedroom?"

"Get out of the way, man!" someone yells behind Spike and he has to step in close while two guys drag a cooler past and suddenly Dawn feels like crying. People are looking at them and she can't care, she doesn't want to care about any of this.

"Whatever," she says and hurls herself away from him and toward the front door without looking back to see if he's following.

She's halfway down the front walk when he falls into step beside her and she looks down to realize she's still holding the stupid beer cup.

"Shit," she says, turns around and throws it at the house as hard as she can. It hits the stucco beside the front door, splashing liquid, and falls into the bushes. Perversely, it makes her feel better. Dawn Summers, litterer extraordinaire.

When she turns around again, though, Spike's just standing there, waiting for her, not reacting at all and she's angry all over again. At this awful, new Spike he came back, all silences and hunched shoulders, and the thing he did to her sister, and the things he did with her sister, and how he went away.

She's walking now and he's following without saying anything, keeping pace with her. It's cold, for Sunnydale, and she shivers and pulls the cuffs of her jacket down over her hands.

"Gonna tell on me?" she says without looking at him.

He breathes in before he answers and she used to like that about him, like the attention to detail, how he was so good at pretending to be normal and harmless. Then she got older and realized it's just the way he's always forgetful, playing at being human, pretending so Buffy will like him.

"'m not like that," he says and she lets out a little fake laugh.

"Yeah," she says. "Okay."

There's nothing moving in the shadows between the streetlights and she glances over to see if he's watching for the same thing. "All manner of beasties," he used to say to her. "Tasty snack, you'd make."

She hates that he probably still thinks of her as that girl, young and stupid and trusting. When he has no idea who she is anymore -- he's not the only one who can change, and she has different things going on, her own life. All these things she has to deal with, her house full of other girls, her backpack full of Giles' old books. Her own decisions, like how she'll hate him forever, even when he shows up everywhere, worms his way back into everything.

"I liked you better without the soul," she says, snippy, and he doesn't say anything at first.

"Me too," he says finally, without looking at her, and she flushes and doesn't have an answer.

If this were the old days, she could tell him things now -- that she hates that the world is maybe ending, that the new high school blows, that she saw her mother. The air is cold on her face, in her lungs. She can't tell if it's the beer or just her that makes the streetlights look like they have rings around them, glowing.

They're crossing the little overpass near the highway when he stops on the sidewalk halfway across.

"What?" she says uncertainly, and stops too.

"Nothing," he says, cocking his head. "I thought I heard --" He stops and stands there, facing her.

Dawn's back is to the guardrail and she reaches behind her to hold onto it -- it's awkward but she doesn't let go. The metal is cold on her hands and Spike is standing very close. Close enough that she can smell him, stale cigarettes and laundry detergent.

For a weird, wild second her heart beats faster -- he's close enough now that he could kiss her. He' d only have to lean down a little. She's really aware of her lips and she wonders if she'll kiss him back.

But he doesn't move and she can't quite see his face in the darkness. A car goes by underneath them, the sweep of headlights illuminating them both for a second, so bright she has to blink. She sees his face, though -- she sees it and it's set and sad.

"Spike?" she says into the darkness. There was something on his shirt, she saw it, a dark stain.

It happens so fast she doesn't even scream -- his hand on her waist, in her hair, the wrench as he turns her neck so he can lunge and bite down.

His teeth are in her throat and she can't cry, can't breathe. For a weird, hazy moment she thinks she sees her sister's smirking face hovering behind Spike. Then everything slows down, shrinks to his weight bearing into her, his hand curving around the base of her skull. The railing digging into her back as he bends her backwards over it, out into darkness and air.


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