Ten Years After

Chapter 10

Next morning Dawn decided to breakfast in her room again, and to ring Willow at the same time. Willow wanted to know how she was feeling about herself, where had she been sight-seeing so far, and how was she getting on with Spike? Dawn felt she could honestly say that she was less frightened by the Highlander Syndrome now, and wanted to know more about it. She was beginning to see some positives she told Willow – and mentioned the ability to drink fairly large amounts of alcohol without getting too drunk. This had the desired effect of making Willow laugh.

She described some of the shops they had visited yesterday, and some of her purchases, and then added one of the photos she’d taken of Spike with her phone rather than with his when he had been choosing shirts. “Wow!” Willow said, causing Dawn a quick pang of jealousy as she recalled Spike’s comment that he always did think Willow was a smart bit of talent, until Willow continued “I don’t think I ever saw him in a pale coloured shirt before – how did you talk him into that? Or has he changed an awful lot in the last ten years?”

“He still has a black leather coat,” Dawn answered, “and he chose the blue shirt himself – I just gave him my opinion. Actually I think he’s more at ease with who or what he is, so no more black on black because he’s not The Big Bad anymore, nor is he a soul in torment or whatever. Anyway – the ‘punk undertaker’ look was getting just too dated, darling!”

Willow laughed, but continued somewhat more seriously “Actually it is a bit odd, that he looks different because of the haircut and the shirt, but then he looks just same otherwise. It kinda brings it home, that when I’m wrinkly and grey you won’t be. He looks pretty cool – I mean not just ‘neat’ but calm, happy even. Wouldn’t it be good if you and he…. I mean….there’d not be the ‘is this your grand-daughter thing’…. Um….you might want to forget I just said that!”

‘In for a penny, in for a pound, as Giles’ Grandma would say,’ thought Dawn. “Would it wig you totally if I said I might just want to agree with you?” she asked out loud.

“Hey – you are talking to a bisexual who used to sleep with a were-wolf – why should a het Watcher type person and a sexy vampire give me a wigging?” Willow asked. “Although if it was an ordinary vampire, not a souled one, I would be seriously worried,” she continued, “and there is the Buffy thing to think about, like this is Spike.”

‘Soul, schmoul!’ Dawn thought, but said “I think I could get serious if I don’t try hard not to. Spike and I’ve always been on the same wavelength about lots of things. He was able to comfort me, and to make me laugh, those months without Buffy. I think this is a proper grown up thing though – not just a teenager thing. But I’m not sure whether I’m just kidding myself that although my body is stuck at about twenty my emotions have grown up properly, or not.”

Before Willow could answer, Dawn changed the subject – “Course if I am that worried about Buffy or Giles I could always ask Spike to wait for me for a few years – until they’ve both died – that would save a lot of hassle!”

This had the desired effect – there was a snort from the phone and Willow’s voice going “Dawn! I so did not hear that!!”

Dawn turned the conversation to the subject of the work Willow was doing on ‘lifting the edge of the cloak’. Willow explained that she had had to start by doing some magic to prevent her from losing focus, but with the help of another member of her coven who did not know anything about the Key related side of things, she was now able to concentrate properly.

Dawn was interested in which other coven member – a rather nice woman with curly hair, curvy hips and a soft Scottish accent, from the Highlands if Dawn’s ear did not deceive her. She had a feeling that Willow might be planning to enjoy more time in Mhairi’s company, Scaramouch might have to get used to a new regular visitor!

The conversation returned to the subject of sight-seeing. Dawn was planning on going to Notre Dame after breakfast – it wasn’t the sort of place Spike would really want to go with her even if it was not sunny. Willow suggested that a sight-seeing cruise on the Seine would be a good way to spend an afternoon, and Dawn laughed, and said she’d got a better plan – she was going on the night-time version to admire ‘The City of Lights’, as the brochures called night-time Paris, because Spike could come too. She didn’t add that it was described as one of the romantic must-does of Paris – she knew Willow would probably be well aware of that. So was Spike – but he’d seemed happy enough to agree when she’d suggested it the previous evening, before he’d left.

After her phone conversation with Willow Dawn pulled on jeans, sweatshirt and trainers to go and see some more of Paris. A passing glance in the mirror stopped her in her tracks; with no make-up, and her hair pulled into a pony-tail, she really could have been mistaken for a teenager. Which was kind of nice, but she wondered how long it would be before someone asked her age before allowing her into a night-club or whatever, and then refused to believe her when she showed them her ID, and insisted that it must belong to someone else as she could quite clearly not be that old.

Thank goodness for the umbrella of the Watchers Council; whilst not exactly all-powerful they shouldn’t have much trouble getting her date of birth on her ID changed at regular intervals! ‘How does Spike cope?’ she wondered. ‘I must ask him.’


***


Sight-seeing around Notre Dame was fun. Looking just like any other young student, Dawn wandered around with her guidebook, taking pictures. It reminded her of when she had first arrived in Rome with Buffy, before The Great Wanker had arrived on the scene. On a whim she took a couple of pictures of particularly scenic bits, and sitting at a pavement café added a note for Buffy.

Saw this and thought of you! Well, thought of you and me sight-seeing in Rome that time anyway. I’m having a break in Paris, because I need some time to myself to think, without having to do any research for Giles!

Recently the Key has caused something a bit odd, and I’d like to tell you about it in person, rather than phone or e-mail, but there is absolutely no hurry at all.

So as you would love the shops here, next time you come to England it would be really nice to spend some ‘sister time’ together here, just you and me.

Dawn.

It took about five drafts before she was happy with the wording. She did not want Buffy dropping everything and arriving in Paris under any circumstances! If she totally didn’t mention the research that was going on into her Keyness, and the Highlander Syndrome, until next time Buffy visited, Buffy would get angry, and complain that she had a right to know – which she probably did, really. So now hopefully she wouldn’t worry if she found out Dawn was on sabbatical. Dawn hit ‘send’.

She wondered how soon it would be before Buffy rang Giles to find out what was going on, probably about four or five hours, what with the time difference, she thought. She would ask him next time she rang. She wondered how long it would have taken Buffy to hit the sidewalks of Paris with her feet running if the message had finished ‘Spike looks well, and is taking me on a romantic cruise tonight’!


***


In the end Dawn couldn’t resist ringing Giles herself to see if she’d been right about Buffy ringing him. “Ah, yes. She rang about half an hour ago,” Giles informed her. “She read me out your message to her and wanted to know what you were really doing in Paris, if there was anything wrong with you, and why you had mentioned the Key. She said that she’d hoped that we’d all forgotten about ‘that old thing’ by now. I was able to reassure her that on the whole the existence of the Key was totally forgotten, in my most honest voice.”

Dawn laughed.

Giles chuckled in response. “I was able to reassure her also that you are in the very best of health, I had almost thought to say blooming but then she might misinterpret that as you being pregnant, and be on a flight within days. I got the impression, from the tone of your message to her, that you would prefer her not to do that right now, and so I chose my words with care.

“The trip to Paris, I informed her, was purely a holiday – not research, not recovering from something we had not told her about – purely a holiday. I also refrained from mentioning that you had met Spike. I fear your sister would have found it difficult to accept that the two of you bumping into each other in a major European capital city was simply coincidence. And if I had told her that, of course, I’m afraid that I may not been being entirely truthful …” he paused.

“Oh, absolutely a coincidence!” Dawn replied, but couldn’t make it sound very convincing.

“Yes, well as I say, I would have had problems making that sound convincing, just as you do,” Giles answered, and then paused again. “Purely to satisfy my personal curiosity, did you get in contact with him before you went to Paris, or when you got there?”

It was no good, you really couldn’t pull wool over Giles eyes for long. “I guessed he might be here, if you really want to know! And I got his e-mail address from Angel’s partner, and asked him to meet me. He didn’t answer until I’d been here a whole day, and then only agreed to meet me because I pestered him. OK?”

“I’m most impressed with your research abilities – although goodness knows why I should be – it is after all what we trained you to do, and I know from years of experience how good at it you are!” Giles answered, a hint of amusement in his voice.

“He was the only person I could think of who knew what it feels like, that I could talk to. I couldn’t see me just sitting down for a chat with Angel, or The Immortal.” Dawn started to defend herself.

“Absolutely,” Giles cut across her. “I can quite understand why Spike is the one you would talk to, dear child. Did you pass on my apology?”

“Yes,” Dawn answered; somewhat surprised that Giles was not going to blast her for trying to find Spike. “He was very … He was very… impressed is the word, I think. He was quite shocked, and really pleased that you should say that. Um – and he said he might just take you up on the glass of whisky.”

“Good,” said Giles, “if I hadn’t meant the offer I wouldn’t have made it! Now, as I was saying I think I have reassured Buffy that she need not worry about you, and that we do give our staff holidays, which they may take in Paris if they so wish.

“I am coping more easily with the research now that I am making a point of writing everything down, and re-reading it at very regular intervals, so that it does eventually begin to stick. Willow is working on….em….the cloaking spells, but it might take some time. I think you should continue to enjoy your holiday, and leave all the Key-related research to us for a little longer, and if Spike is helping you to come to terms with what we now know about your, em, life-expectancy, you have my blessing to see as much of him as you like.”

The conversation continued for a little longer; about the weather, patrols Sylvie-Marie had done in the Gay Quarter and something cute that Thea had said the day before, but Dawn was not totally concentrating on it. Instead she was thinking that Giles’ reaction to things could still surprise, and please, her – he was less inclined to be judgemental with her than he had been with Buffy, but then it was the difference between teenager and twenty-something, and between Slayer and Watcher Council Researcher. She also had trouble not laughing at the phrase ‘you have my blessing to see as much of him as you like’ – ‘all of him would be good, preferably gift-wrapped!’ she thought to herself.


***


It was possible to do a Seine cruise with a first class dinner to eat as you sailed, but Dawn had decided that there wasn’t much point in this from Spike’s point of view, and so she had got the hotel to book them on a boat with just a bar. No need for formal evening dress on this one either, which was a good thing, as that might have been just a bit too much for Spike. Pity really, it would have been a chance to go for a ‘sexy’ dress, but as her waist, legs and butt were her best features, she thought, tight trousers and high-heeled boots would be quite suitable.

‘Good choice Dawn,’ she congratulated herself, as Spike took in her appearance in the hotel lobby later. Having skimmed over her stylish, but warm, jacket his gaze lingered on everything from there down, until she could sense him mentally shaking himself and bringing his eyes up to meet hers. She kissed him firmly on both cheeks as soon as he was close enough, and he smiled.

“C’mon then pet,” he said, taking her by the hand, “let’s go messing around on the river.”

Dawn curled her fingers round Spike’s. He looked down at the two hands intertwined as they went down the hotel steps, gave an almost imperceptible shrug, and then tightened the grip a little more himself. They continued walking hand-in-hand, saying very little, just keeping easily in stride. Dawn thought as she walked ‘I wonder if Spike is aware of a tingle where we’re touching or if it’s just me?’ and then ‘I wonder if Spike realises that he’s calling me ‘pet’ more and more, and ‘bit’ less and less?’

The cruise boat was only about half-full; there were fewer tourists now than there would be in the summer. Spike bought them a bottle of wine from the bar, and they settled into seats at a window table towards the stern of the boat where it was quieter, more of their fellow cruisers claiming seats at the bow.

“We got B.O. or something?” Dawn asked Spike, quietly, as the last people got on board, and there still seemed to be a charmed circle around them with no-one in it.

“No,” he replied with a slight smile, “they think we look very romantic, and keep leaving us undisturbed!”

“Honestly?” Dawn asked.

“Honestly,” Spike answered, “the guy at the bar said something about the beautiful young couple to the waiter, and he keeps steering people into other places!”

“I wish I had great big ears like you, Grandma,” Dawn drawled.

“They go with the great big teeth,” Spike answered, flashing his fangs for a tiny moment, and making her giggle.

As the boat pulled away from its mooring Spike raised his glass towards her and said “Well, pet, here’s to long life … and happiness.”

Dawn didn’t immediately answer, but raised her own glass in acknowledgement. “The red wine looks very … you!” she said after a few moments.

Spike raised an eyebrow, ran his tongue over his lips briefly, and took an exaggeratedly slow mouthful. “Hmm … bourgeois I think, female, twenty three or four years of age, liked oranges!” he said after he had swallowed, and Dawn laughed again.

The barman looked across and smiled.

As the lights of Paris started to glide by, and the commentary explained some of the more historic or interesting buildings, Dawn said “Spike, I’ve got a really serious question.”

He looked at her for a moment, and then said “Fire away then.”

“How old are you inside. I mean how old do you feel, still in your twenties, or very very old?”

“Hey! Less of the very, very old! Angel – now he’s very, very old! Me, I’m just a lad, not much over a hundred and fifty,” he answered, laughing. Then more seriously “I really don’t know, pet. I was twenty-four when I was turned, and probably younger than most twenty-four year olds are these days. All the time from then on until, well until maybe the chip, or maybe the soul, I think I was about fourteen inside! Do what you want, take what you want, never ever think of anyone else, well almost never. That’s what the demon does – turns you into a delinquent teenager with extras I reckon. Course then I didn’t think about it at all!

“Was a time, back in Sunnydale, in the last months, when I felt like I was seventeen going on seventy. But I think I’ve grown up more inside now; the teenager is still there, but I guess that’s sorta true for most men, eh? On the whole I guess I’m probably back to about twenty-four again. Still got all the memories though, so s’pose it’s hard to be exactly any age. Why?”

“I don’t know if I’m twenty or twenty-seven,” Dawn answered seriously.

“Does it matter?” Spike asked.

“I don’t want to be only-just-not-a-teenager for ever, it was all hormones, and angst over whether someone fancied you, and being not quite grown up! And I still blush!” she blurted out.

“I think you’ve almost answered it there then, pet. Not that blushing means you’re never going to be more than twenty, but you just said twenty ‘was’ not ‘is’. You’ll have to get the Council scientists to check for sure, but you’ve probably got the absolute optimum levels of all possible hormones in that perfect body, love. You’ve just got the blushing ‘cos you’ve got a twenty year old’s reflexes, ‘cos that’s when your reflexes are at their peak. But you’re pretty level headed, seems to me, so you must be able to learn past twenty – stands to reason, self-preservation thing.”

Dawn reached out and took Spike’s hand. “You are a genius. You just made sense of something that’s been worrying me since I began to realise what was happening, or not happening. I knew you’d be able to help me sort myself out.” She paused, still holding his hand across the table, and then moved her head slightly so that she was looking at him through her eyelashes – “Perfect body? You think I’ve got a perfect body?”

Spike leant back a little in his seat, but left his hand in hers. He raised an eyebrow, and asked “You flirting with me, pet?”

“Mmm … Yes? Maybe,” Dawn answered.

Spike leant forward, raised their joined hands to his mouth briefly, and then said “S’all right then. Long as I know!”


***


  • Chapter 11

  • The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.