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I have boldly lifted bits of dialog from "After Life" and following episodes. These show up in red. Footnotes are at the end of each chapter.
There was a sudden commotion as the missing Scooby gang burst in. Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya tumbled in like a pack of puppies. Buffy shifted on the vampire's lap, burrowing away from the noise. At once Dawn planted herself in front of them as they all saw the beaten vampire and the sleeping Slayer. Spike's expression was fierce, protective, clearly ready to fight for his charge if need be. They all started to talk at once, but Dawn shushed them and shooed the crowd back onto the porch, closing the door softly behind them. Spike's keen hearing picked them up clearly.
There was babble as they asked about Buffy and what had happened, their voices overlapping and running together. “We brought her back, we really did! Why is Spike holding her? We saw the tower collapse. We searched under the rubble. Why is Spike all beaten up? Did you know the demons have left? Is she in pain? Are you okay? Where did you find her? She ran away.[i] Is she a zombie? Did you call Giles?”
Dawn shushed them with steel in her voice. “Guys! Back off.[ii] She just now fell asleep. She’s very fragile. Do you know she had to dig her way out?”
“Yeah… we saw her,” this was Xander.
“But we brought her back, she’s fine!” Willow was defensive.
“You don’t know anything. Sure you brought her back, but do you know from where? Huh?”
“We… we saved her from Hell!” came Willow’s voice, very tired. “Didn’t we?”
“Did you?” asked Dawn. “Did you have any way of knowing?”
There was a pause where Spike could picture them looking ashamed at one another.
Dawn spoke again. “I believe it would be best for Buffy if you all just stayed away for at least the weekend. She’s very… skittish.” There were some female protests. “I know you live here now. I’ll… I’ll throw some clothes out the window for you. It’s what’s best for Buffy. For your friend.”
“You can stay with me. I have a guest bed.” Spike was pleased Xander was actually speaking some sense.
There were murmurs of reluctant agreement, then Dawn opened the door and looked back over her shoulder. “Besides, I don’t know that anyone in the house is very happy with you right now.”
She quietly came into the living room where Spike gave her a supportive nod. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered.
Spike watched Buffy sleep while listening to Dawn move around upstairs. First he heard her rummaging in Willow and Tara’s room and the sound of a window opening, then closing. Footsteps, then water running upstairs. Dawn padded back downstairs with a damp cloth, and, kneeling on the other side of Spike from Buffy, gently cleaned the dried blood from the cut on his lip. Spike smiled gratefully. Before she stood up, she placed a soft kiss on her sister’s hair. Efficiently, she moved about the living room, closed all the drapes tightly, and turned off the lights. She returned to Spike who looked up and tilted his head at her, questioning. She paused a moment, then leaned over and kissed Spike on the forehead. “Thank you,” she breathed, then scampered quietly upstairs.
Spike was surprised. Dawn had never shown such affection for him. Not even when she had a crush on him the year before. He listened to her fixing up Buffy’s room, then the click of her bedroom door. He tucked the blanket around Buffy and, ignoring the pain in his shoulder, settled into a restful, yet watchful trance. A couple of times in the night he soothed and murmured to a restless Buffy, letting her know she was not alone and easing her troubled sleep.
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