Title:  Relentless
Author:  Zyrya
Email: zyryafic at arcadiae dot net
About:  2,800 words; Rated PG; Spike & Dawn; set during Restless, season 4.
Disclaimer:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and assorted companies.  Restless was written by Joss Whedon.
Notes:  Written for Insert Dawn Here., in which participants write Dawn into a pre-Season 5 episode without breaking canon.

"But Mom!"

"Sweetie, please.  Be a good girl.  For me," Joyce said pointedly, wearily, finally bringing out the big guns.

Dawn pouted.  She'd tried sulking, bargaining and even logical arguments, but was now reduced to begging.  "It's not fair," she grumbled, but allowed her mother to steer her to the stairs.  "It's just snacks and movies ... it's not like they're off slaying or anything."

"They've earned their party," Joyce said, looking fondly back at Buffy and her friends gathering in the sitting room.  "You and I can do something special together, just the two of us."

Dawn broke from her mother's arm and dawdled in the hall, trailing her hand around the newel post.  "Can we make sundaes and watch The Princess Bride on your tv?" she asked hopefully.

"Tomorrow, all right?  I'm exhausted, darling."

"But I'm not!  I want to stay up and ...."

"Dawn Summers!  Buffy wants to be with her friends, and it's your bedtime, and that's my final word.  Scoot!"

Dawn hopped up onto the first step, yelping at the gentle smack to her bottom.  She paused on the landing to pull a face at her older sister, but Buffy was in the middle of some nauseatingly touching farewell scene with Riley so Dawn stomped up to her bedroom before she had to see them kiss.  Again.  Not even sympathetic glances from Xander and Willow could soothe her wounded spirit.

"My wounded spirit," she said quietly to herself as she fished her diary from under her pillows.

"Don't forget to brush your teeth," Joyce reminded her, popping her head around the door.

"I'm not a little kid, you know.  I'm thirteen!"

"Don't forget to brush your teeth, oh wise and aged one."

Dawn allowed her mother a hug and a kiss.  "I'll be fourteen this summer and you'll have to stop babying me," she said firmly.

Joyce merely smiled and went to her own bedroom.  Dawn changed into her pyjamas and brushed her teeth.  She turned on her lava lamp and watched the swirling pinks and oranges it cast on the wall while she turned to a blank page in her diary and tapped her pen against her mouth.  Past the date and 'wounded spirit' the words just wouldn't come, though, so she put on her robe and slippers and crept quietly to the stairs.

Her mother's door was closed and no light showed from beneath it, but as Dawn passed it opened a crack and Joyce's tired face peered from the darkness.

"Go back to bed, please," she said seriously.

"I need a glass of water."

Joyce sighed.  "Get it from the bathroom, and go back to bed.  I really mean it."

Dawn rolled her eyes and flounced back to her bedroom.

"It's so not fair," she told the stuffed animals arrayed on her bed, throwing herself among them.  "Xander and Willow would have let me stay.  Anyone would think they were having a ... an orgy!"

"Orgies, is it?" came a deep voice from the open window.  "Think they started without me?"

"Spike!" Dawn squealed, and then quickly lowered her voice to a whisper.  "Spike!"

"Bit," he nodded, drawing himself up to sit in the windowsill.

"Have you come to rescue me?"

"From what?" he growled, tensing into a crouch and eyeing the stuffed animals with suspicion.

"From boredom and being treated like a little kid, and from people who ... who lock me up and are mean to me!"

He relaxed again.  "Just came to say goodbye, Rapunzel."

"You're leaving?  Why?"

Spike patted his pockets and withdrew a pack of cigarettes and his lighter.  "Did a spot of treachery and double dealing ... reckon I'll be vampire non grata with the white hats.  Thought I'd take off for a while, let the hurt feelings die down."

"But you're coming back, right?"  Dawn clutched Tigger to her chest.

"Gonna see a man about a chip," Spike said, pointing at his temple.

Dawn rolled her eyes.  "Is that all you ever think about?"

"Yes!  And yeah, I'm coming back.  To kill the lot of you.  Starting with mewling junior bints who don't know when they've got it good!"

"If you could get that thing out you'd have done it already," she said airily.  "And we all know you're not really bad any more."

"Bite your tongue!  I'm evil!  Helped Adam almost end the world, didn't I?  Gotta count for something."

"You're not even evil enough to smoke in my room," Dawn smirked, pointing at the unlit cigarette in his hand.

Spike frowned.  "Know your mum wouldn't like it, is all," he muttered, putting his smoking supplies back in his pockets.  "Speaking of, where is she?  Want to pay my respects before I head out."

"Mom went to bed already.  The others are downstairs having a party.  Without me," Dawn added forlornly.

"Awful quiet for a party."

"It's just the Scoobies and some videos.  Tara and Anya aren't even here."

"Hardly worth you showing up then, eh?  Doesn't sound like you're missing out on anything.  Can you see anyone having an orgy without Demon Girl?"

Dawn giggled.  "Let's go spy on them," she suggested, bouncing a little on the bed.  "Can you tell if Mom's asleep yet?"

Spike slid off the windowsill and stalked across the room to put his ear to the wall between Dawn and Joyce's bedrooms.  "Sounds like."  He held out his hand.  "Shall we?"

They stole quietly along the hall, and Spike briefly inclined his head to Joyce's door.  He nodded, and they continued to the stairs.  Spike went down first, keeping close to the wall, and Dawn sidled behind him.  She pointed to the step which had a wicked creak, and he lifted her past it.  Together they peeked into the sitting room.

"Some party!" Dawn whispered scornfully.

Buffy and Willow were curled up on the couch, wrapped in blankets.  Giles sat in the armchair, and Xander was sprawled against cushions on the floor.  The coffee table was temptingly supplied with drinks, popcorn and cookies, and the television flared with action sequences of soldiers and helicopters, but all four averters of the apocalypse were deeply asleep.

Spike raised an eyebrow.  "Saddest orgy I've ever seen."

"Disappointed?" she asked archly.

"Well, yeah.  Thought saving the world was at least worth a stripper."  He inspected the sleepers, and then stepped back into the hall.  "What now?  Back upstairs?"

"Ooh!  Ice cream!"

Dawn tugged him through the dining room and into the kitchen.  Spike, smiling as indulgently as Joyce had earlier, allowed her to guide him onto one of the stools by the island and watched as she opened the freezer.  She stacked cardboard containers on the counter until he clamped a restraining hand on her forearm.

"Reckon six pints is overkill.  Won't the others mind you nicking their stuff?"

"Oh, yeah, you're the Big Bad," Dawn snickered.  She reached up to take bowls from the cupboard.

"You must have grown an inch in the last month, pigeon," Spike said admiringly.  "Be taller than Superbitch in no time, you mark my words."

She smiled, pleased that he'd noticed, and started scooping ice cream from the cartons.  When she'd arranged a spoonful of each flavour in their bowls, she topped them with nuts and sprinkles and chocolate syrup, and then drew a package of tiny marshmallows from the cupboard and presented it to Spike with a flourish.

"Mom gets these specially for you, you know," she confided.  "Ever since that time last year when you came around all mopey about Drusilla leaving you."

Spike, she noted with interest, actually ducked his head.  "The lady does right by her friends," he said gruffly.

He shook a handful of marshmallows into each bowl, and Dawn handed him a spoon.  They tucked into their desserts with alacrity, Dawn mushing all her ice creams into one while Spike alternated spoonfuls of individual flavours.

"Don't suppose you have any blood?" he asked, chasing a dribble of sauce from the rim of the bowl with his tongue.

"Only mine," she said cheekily.  "Shall I get a knife?"

"Very funny.  Good joke on the vampire ... donate some red cells, then tell the big sis, and stand back to watch the stakes fly."

Dawn made a show of checking the fridge, in case her mother's hospitality stretched to buying more than marshmallows.  There was no blood, but the contents of the top shelf caught her attention.

"How about a spell on Buffy instead?" she suggested.  "It's really evil, I promise."

Spike stared at the big yellow block Dawn slapped onto the counter.  "It's cheese.  How evil can it be?"

"Oh, this is the best.  Amy taught me last year before she turned herself into a rat.  Wanna try it?"

He slurped up the last spoonful of cherry and chocolate, and licked his spoon clean.  "I'm in.  Let the mayhem commence."

Dawn grabbed a knife from the drawer and a chopping block from the counter.  She knew Spike was probably hoping her hand would slip and provide him with a snack, as he gave a small sigh when the carving was accomplished without incident.  Holding one large chunk of cheddar in her hands, she squished it between her palms until it was soft and then transferred it to Spike's fingers.

He raised an eyebrow and inspected the warm, greasy handful.  "What now?"

Dawn picked up another piece and repeated the procedure until she had her own handful of mushed cheese.  Pressing her fingers to Spike's, she solemnly intoned the words Amy had taught her.

"Hey!" Spike objected, recoiling.  "Since when are you qualified with the mojo?  Thought this was gonna be a pretend spell."

"I'm not a child," she retorted haughtily.  "It's real magic.  But it's not dangerous," she quickly added in response to his alarmed expression.  "Just a charm.  And kinda ironic, considering, you know, the rat thing.  But Willow promised to teach me some big magic this summer, so by the time you get back from your vacation I'll know all sorts of stuff and you'll fear my wrath."

"Is that right?" he drawled.

Dawn stuck out her chin.  "Everything's gonna be different when I turn fourteen, and ... and I'll be a powerful witch and everyone will respect me.  It's gonna be all about me next year," she told him.  "Just you wait and see."

Spike nodded approvingly.  "That's the spirit.  Important to have goals."

"Come with me," Dawn commanded.

She led the way to the sitting room.  Bumping the doors open with her hip, she tiptoed behind Giles's armchair to the end of the couch where Buffy's head lolled on the arm.  "Watch me," she instructed, and bent to rub her fingers under Buffy's nose.  "You do Xander."

Spike stared stupidly at her.  "Do what now?"

Dawn rubbed the cheese close to Buffy's face again, and nodded violently in Xander's direction.  Spike shrugged and walked around the coffee table.  He crouched at Xander's side and imitated Dawn's action.  Dawn waved her fingers under Giles's nose, so Spike turned to Willow and repeated the process, mumbling something under his breath.

"Okay, we're done," Dawn whispered.

They withdrew to the kitchen.

"Not to cast aspersions on your wickedness, pet, but what exactly did we do?"

Dawn grinned triumphantly.  "They'll have really weird dreams now!"

The kitchen clock ticked loudly in the ensuing silence, marking the long minute in which Spike stood dumbfounded in the doorway.

"Nightmare on Elm Street?" he said at last, with a note of hope.  "Ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggety beasties?"

"Um ... well ... not exactly.  More like ....  You know those paintings with the clocks that are all melted on the trees, and flowers and stuff floating in the air?"

"Dali.  Surrealism."

"Like that."

"I see."

Spike started to reach into his pockets, then made a disgusted face and turned to wash his hands in the sink.  Dawn contentedly licked her own fingers clean.

"I know what you're thinking," she said calmly.

"Oh, I doubt that."

"Sure.  You think it's lame little kid stuff, and a total waste of time.  But unlike some people in this room, I know how to plan."  She held up her hand, made a fist, and extended her pinkie finger.

"One, it's reliable.  Janice and I tested it on each other and it definitely works.  Two," she said, unfolding her ring finger, "The dreams are seriously twisted but not scary enough to make you wake up, so the effect lasts for ages."  Her middle finger left her palm.  "Three, it's subtle.  Not like some people who tear through town kidnapping and fighting and getting drunk, and then have breakdowns in other people's kitchens instead of finishing the job, and forget what they came for and then just go away again without saying goodbye to people who thought they were friends."

"S'why I'm here this time!" Spike protested.  "Knew you were still mad about that," he sulked.  "Bloody women."

Dawn carried on undaunted, holding up her index finger.  "Four, it's untraceable, as long as you remember to eat the evidence after."  She stuck out her thumb and wiggled her whole hand at him.  "And five, even if you do get caught it's only a misdementia."

Spike frowned for a moment.  "Misdemeanour."

"Well, a little bitty deal, and not worth a grounding or even extra chores, so it's a quality spell and not to be sneered at!"

"I wouldn't dream of it," Spike said seriously.  "My hat is off to you, pet.  When I get this chip out we'll team up, and together we shall bend entire continents to our will."

"Only if I'm in charge of the planning."

"By all means."

"And you'll be my consort."

Spike coughed.  "Er ... right.  In a few ... a lot of years."

Dawn giggled, because sometimes it was just too easy, but was immediately distracted by a strangled cry sounding from the sitting room.  "It's started!" she hissed.  She grabbed Spike's sleeve and towed him through the house to the sitting room once again.  "Look!"

The sleepers were grimacing, letting out little whimpers of fear and confusion while their fingers twitched at cushions and clothing.  Xander snorted, batting at the air in front of him, and Willow clenched her hands so abruptly that the cookie she was holding exploded into a shower of crumbs.  Giles panted and drooled, and Buffy's right leg kicked aimlessly against the sofa until her whole body stiffened into a rictus of alarm.

"Wow.  This is way better than when Janice and I did it," Dawn marvelled.

"They're already spell-shocked from whatever Rupert pulled out of his arse to defeat Mr Bits," Spike suggested.  "Your little cheddar exploit has probably overloaded the system.  Not that there was much there to begin with," he sniffed.

Necks still craned around the doorway, attention gleefully fixated on the show, both Dawn and the vampire with the supernatural senses were taken entirely by surprise when a hand clamped each on the shoulder.  Dawn squawked and leaped sideways, thus missing Spike's potentially entertaining reaction, but she relaxed when she realised it was only her mother.  Her extremely pissed off mother, she amended, but still.  Not a ten foot tall, fire-breathing, acid-spraying, teenager-dismembering demon.

"Dawn Summers!"

"I know, I know," she grouched.  "Back to bed."

"And Spike?  What are you doing here at this hour?"

"Heading off on a little trip; came to say goodbye to my favourite ladies," he replied, giving his most charming smile.

Joyce visibly melted, her face softening into the expression of tolerant affection that she reserved only for Spike.  Dawn rolled her eyes.

"Come and tell me all about it," Joyce offered.  "Hot chocolate?"

"That would be lovely."

Joyce glanced into the sitting room.  Dawn held her breath, but their victims had temporarily calmed to the occasional twitches and snuffles of nearly normal sleep.  Spike put his hand on Joyce's elbow and gently guided her away from the door, and Dawn exhaled with relief.  She firmly closed the doors and moved to sit at the kitchen island, but froze under Joyce's disapproving, disappointed glare.  The maternal gaze swung across the dirty bowls and drips of ice cream on the counter before Joyce began to collect the ingredients for the hot chocolate.

Dawn considered pleading with Spike ... he was a much softer touch, and didn't care about things like curfews and vitamins ... but he had already made the cute yet creepy transition from partner in crime to that blend of black sheep, honorary son and charismatic flirt which he morphed into in her mother's presence.

"Sleep tight, bed-bug," he said cheerfully.  "I'll drop round when I'm back in Sunnyhell, see how the new world order is shaping up."

Joyce kissed her on the cheek and pushed her in the direction of the stairs.  "Good night, dear.  Don't forget to brush your teeth again after all that ice cream."

"But Mom!"