Title: Driving Till Dawn
Era/season/setting: Season 6, between “All the Way” and “Once More, With Feeling”
Summary: When Dawn goes missing, Spike and Buffy take a road trip to find her.
Author’s Notes: This is not the spuffiest of Spuffy fics I’ve ever written, but I think there’s enough spuffiness in there to count. Dawn kind of got in the way a little, but then, doesn’t she always?
Buffy leaned against the payphone, the receiver in her hand, staring out blankly into the dark night around her. Her heart was racing, but she was trying not to panic. She kept her voice calm and even, determined not to give away just how terrified she was. “Is she still on the move?”
“It looks like she’s traveling pretty fast,” Willow said on the other end of the line, her tone holding its own note of tension. “She hasn’t gotten off the interstate. So, you’re still good.”
But she wasn’t good. Nothing about any of this was good.
“Where do you think she’s headed?”
“I wish I knew. Buffy, I’m so sorry—”
“Don’t, Will. Just don’t. I have to go. We’re losing time. I’ll call you later.” Buffy hung up the phone without even waiting for Willow to say goodbye.
She inhaled a ragged breath, her whole body shaking with the effort. After what had happened at Halloween, she’d thought that Dawn had learned her lesson, but apparently, she’d been wrong. She’d left Dawn with Willow, just before sundown, while she’d gone out patrolling with Spike. When she’d finally come home later that night, Dawn was gone and Willow had no idea where she was.
A quick locator spell and Willow had figured out that Dawn was traveling east on the interstate. Buffy prayed that it was by Greyhound and that her fifteen-year-old sister was not hitchhiking her way across the country. She knew that Dawn was starved for attention, knew that she was acting out because of it, but running away from home without a word was just too much. When Buffy finally found her, she was going to lock her in her room until the next apocalypse.
The night air was cold against Buffy’s skin, and she shivered despite the heavy sweater she wore. She had run out of the house in such a hurry that she hadn’t even bothered to grab a jacket. The farther into the mountains they traveled, the colder it got. They were already halfway to Utah and Buffy was beginning to wonder where and when this little impromptu road trip would end.
Buffy pushed herself away from the phone, already exhausted from worry. She crossed the gravel parking lot, her legs feeling like lead as she walked to Spike’s DeSoto. She opened the door and slipped inside without a word, staring at the dashboard without seeing it, her mind racing down the highway with Dawn.
“What’d Red say?” Spike asked, not yet bothering to put the car in drive.
“Just that she’s still moving. I . . . I don’t know what the hell she’s thinking.”
Spike shifted the car into gear and turned his attention back toward the windshield. “Doubt she’s thinkin’ at all. Just feelin’.” He pulled out of the convenience store parking lot and back onto the road. “She’s been through a lot.”
“I’ve been through a lot. And this, this doesn’t help.” Buffy hunkered down against the seat, sticking her hands under her armpits to keep them from freezing. There was no heat in Spike’s car. Of course, there wasn’t. But while the lack of warmth didn’t affect him in the least, it was making Buffy particularly irritable. She was in a foul mood, and so, she sat there imagining all the terrible punishments she was going to inflict upon her sister when she finally got her home. She was going to make Dawn regret ever having run away, and she was going to make damned sure that it never happened again.
Buffy suddenly felt Spike’s eyes upon her, and she turned her head slowly to look at him. “What?”
“No, I’m not,” she said, scrambling to sit upright in her seat, slipping her hands from beneath her arms.
“Yeah, you are.” Without waiting for her to argue, Spike turned his eyes back to the road. He took both hands off the wheel and began removing his duster.
“What the hell are you doing?” Buffy asked, grabbing for the wheel herself. “You’re going to get us both killed.”
Spike smirked. “I know what I’m doing.” He shrugged out of his coat and then slipped it from beneath his legs. He tossed it at Buffy without even looking at her and then took back the wheel.
Buffy slumped into her seat again, Spike’s leather coat crumpled up on her lap. For a moment, she just sat there, staring at it, not quite sure what she was supposed to do with it.
“Put it on,” Spike said as if reading her mind.
Buffy looked up at him again, suddenly feeling very small and uncertain. Spike had given her his coat. It was such an intimate gesture. It was the kind of thing a man did for the woman he loved, and Buffy didn’t want to give Spike any kind of false hope. She knew he still had feelings for her, and she didn’t want to encourage them, no matter how cold she felt, both inside and out.
“Do you want to freeze to death?” he asked when she continued to sit there, unmoving.
Buffy shook her head. Despite her better judgment, she slipped into Spike’s duster. She wrapped it around herself tightly, snuggling down into the seat for warmth. Buffy closed her eyes, inhaling deeply, the familiar scent of leather and cigarettes making her head swim. For the first time that night, she felt warm and safe, but it only lasted for a moment. The instant she opened her eyes again, reality came crashing back down upon her as her vision focused on the endless stretch of road ahead.
Buffy hadn’t wanted to ask for Spike’s help, but Dawn had taken off well beyond the limits of Sunnydale, and he was the only person she knew who had a car. They’d been driving for hours now, and Buffy couldn’t see an end in sight. She was afraid that by the time they found Dawn – if they found Dawn – it might be too late. Just a few days earlier she had gone on a date with a vampire and had almost allowed him to bite her. God only knew what she might do now.
“It’s gonna be all right, pet,” Spike said, his voice soft and low and comforting. “We’ll find the nibblet, and we’ll bring her home, right as rain. You’ll see.”
“I’m not so sure,” Buffy said, her eyes still transfixed on the road. “I don’t . . . I don’t know how to deal with this. Vampires I know. Give me a stake and poof, all good. But this? I don’t know how to handle her anymore. I mean, if Mom were here—” But Buffy couldn’t finish the thought.
“Your mum would be doin’ the exact same thing we’re doin’,” Spike said.
“Yeah, but she wouldn’t have let Dawn leave in the first place. Dawn probably wouldn’t even be acting out if Mom were still here.”
They both fell quiet then, nothing between them but the roar of the engine and the whir of the tires. When they’d first gotten in the car, the radio had been blasting, but Spike had quickly turned it off, no doubt out of respect for the gravity of the situation. Buffy really didn’t understand him anymore. She got that he still cared for her, of course, but he was more than just an ally now, he was almost becoming a friend, and it was a very, very strange feeling. He wanted to be a Scooby. He wanted to help, and not just because he still loved her. It was more than that. She was starting to think that he actually liked her. And God forbid, she was starting to think that she actually liked him too. And the whole thing kind of gave her the wiggins.
After all, Spike was the only one who knew she had been ripped out of Heaven. He was the only person she could really talk to anymore. She didn’t quite know what that said about her, why he was the only person she could even stand to be around, but she didn’t want to think about it too deeply. She wanted to keep going just as they were. Allies, comrades in arms, and nothing more.
They drove on for hours, a comfortable silence settling between them. Although Buffy was exhausted, she was too frantic with worry to even think about sleeping. Thankfully, Spike was naturally nocturnal, and he kept vigilant at the wheel all night until the sun started to peek above the horizon.
“I suppose it’s a good thing you had the windows repainted,” Buffy said. “The last thing I need is my driver turning into a big pile of dust.”
Spike laughed. “Yeah, I’ve heard about your driving skills, luv.”
“What? I can’t help it if Buffy and cars are two unmixy things. I did try.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you did,” he said with a condescending smirk.
Buffy wanted to smack the smile off his face, but she resisted the urge. She still needed him to drive her back home once they found Dawn.
A few minutes later, they stopped at a gas station, and Buffy made another call to Willow. Spike stayed in the car again, this time hiding himself from the hazy morning sunshine.
“I’m so glad you called,” Willow said. “She finally stopped. I’ll give you the address. She’s not far from where you are now.”
Buffy didn’t bother with small talk. She just took down the address and hung up the phone, frustrated with just about everyone at that moment.
She hopped back into the car and gave Spike Dawn’s location. He peeled out onto the road again, and they took off for the Denver bus stop where Willow had sworn they would find Dawn.
“What are you gonna do when you find her?” Spike asked, giving Buffy a sidelong glance.
“Kill her. Well, hug her and then kill her. Yes, I’m definitely going to kill her.”
“And after that?”
“Yeah,” he said, the hint of a smile tugging at his lips, “after that.”
“Bury her cold, dead corpse?” Buffy said with a shrug.
Spike laughed. “You know, it might just be easier if you let me turn her. Then, you could dust her, and there wouldn’t be any cleanup at all. No grave to dig, no body to bury.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“You do that, Slayer.”
Buffy sat up straighter in her seat and rolled down her window, so she could watch for road signs. They were nearing their destination, and she didn’t want them to miss the exit. Soon enough, Spike was making a hard turn off the interstate, and Buffy’s anxiety ratcheted up a notch. She knew that when they found Dawn, she was in for a fight. And not the kind of fight she could win with a stake, the kind of fight she wasn’t sure she could win at all.
Buffy kept a keen eye on the street signs as they drove through downtown Denver, eager to find Dawn as quickly as possible. “There!” Buffy exclaimed when the bus stop finally came into view.
Dawn was sitting on a bench, all by herself, bundled up against the cold. She was wearing headphones, and she seemed to be concentrating awfully hard on the bus schedule in her hands. Buffy wondered just where the hell she thought she was going.
Spike pulled the car to the curb, stopping at the corner, a few yards from Dawn. Buffy didn’t even wait for him to make some smartass remark. She just got out of the car and raced to her sister’s side, thankful beyond belief that Dawn seemed to be completely unharmed.
With the headphones on her ears, Dawn didn’t hear Buffy’s approach, which was good, because it meant she didn’t have time to run away. Buffy sat down beside her on the bench, and Dawn looked up, no doubt expecting to see a stranger. As soon as she saw Buffy, her eyes went wide, and she tried to bolt, but Buffy grabbed her wrist, stopping her in mid-flight.
Dawn sank back onto the bench with an angry pout. She ripped the headphones off her head, resting them around her neck. “How did you find me?”
“How’d you even get here?” And then Dawn looked around and saw Spike’s car on the corner. “Of course. Should have known.”
“You’re coming home with us, now.”
“No, I’m not,” Dawn said, trying to pull her wrist from Buffy’s grip, but having no luck. “I’m not going back there.”
“Dawn, you can’t keep doing this.”
“Doing what? Living my life? Like you care.”
“I do care.”
“No, you don’t. All you care about is patrolling and being all controlling and self-righteous. You act like you care, but you don’t. No one does. So, you can just stop pretending.”
“I’m not pretending,” Buffy said, suddenly more hurt than angry. “I love you, Dawnie. You know that. How can you even doubt that?”
“You’re never there anymore. Never. Ever since you came back, you’ve been different. I think I was happier with the bot.”
That hurt. A lot. But Buffy knew Dawn had said it just to hurt her, so she tried not to let it bother her. “It isn’t easy coming back from the dead,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, well, it’s not easy getting left behind either. All the time.”
“Is that what this is about?”
Dawn looked away then. “No. Yeah. Whatever.”
“Oh, Dawn.” Buffy leaned forward, wrapping her arms around her little sister and pulling her close.
“Hey, let go. I’m not a little kid anymore, all right?”
But Buffy didn’t relent. “You may not be a little kid, but you are my little sister, and that’s never going to change. I’m sorry if I’ve been neglectful. I didn’t mean to be. I’ve been going through some stuff—”
Dawn snorted derisively. “Yeah, I know.”
“But that’s no excuse. I’m sorry, Dawn. I’ll try to be more present, more involved. I should have realized all this sooner. I should have realized it when you went off and almost got yourself turned on Halloween—”
“Hey, can we not talk about that? Like, ever again?”
“Yeah, sure.” Buffy pulled away then but kept her hand on Dawn’s just to make sure she didn’t run. “It’s seriously cold out here,” Buffy said with a shiver. “Maybe we should get in the car.”
Dawn looked her up and down as if just noticing that she was wearing Spike’s duster. “Nice coat.”
Buffy tugged it tighter around her with her free hand, suddenly feeling particularly self-conscious. “I was cold. I ran out of the house without a coat.”
“Yeah, right, that’s it.”
“That is it! What are you implying?”
Dawn shrugged. “I don’t know, just that you like to spend time with Spike a lot more than you like to spend time with me these days. Or with anyone else, for that matter.”
Buffy’s cheeks began to burn, but she told herself it was just the cold. “I . . . do not. Spike’s just a convenience. Someone to help me patrol and give me rides when my brat kid sister runs away from home in the middle of the night. That’s all.”
“Yeah, right.” Dawn got up from the bench, but she made no move to run. “We should get going. It’s a long way back to Sunnydale.”
Buffy finally let go of Dawn’s hand. She got up from the bench, and they both started to make their way to the car. But before they could reach it, Dawn yelled, “Shotgun!” and raced to the front passenger door.
Buffy got there just as Dawn was pulling the door open, and she quickly put her hand on the top edge, holding it in place. “Oh, no you don’t. In the back, pain-in-my-neck.”
“Why? You wanna sit next to your boyfriend?”
“If you ever want to even think about leaving the house again once we get home, you’ll let go of this door and sit in the back, now.”
“Fine.” Dawn relinquished her hold on the door and opened the one behind it. She sank down onto the seat with a huff and immediately put her headphones back on.
Buffy closed the door behind her, then got in the car herself, settling in for the long ride home.
“Everything okay, pet?” Spike asked.
Buffy spared a glance at Dawn over her shoulder. Her eyes were focused on what little she could see through the nicks in the painted window. She looked like she had no intention of talking to anyone until long after they had gotten home. Buffy turned back to Spike. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
Spike didn’t press her for more than that. He turned the car back on and pulled out into the road. Buffy sank back against the seat, closing her eyes with a thankful sigh. She was utterly and thoroughly exhausted, and all she wanted to do was sleep. The soft leather of Spike’s coat surrounded her like a warm blanket. It made her feel safe in a way her sleep-deprived brain couldn’t quite describe. She still didn’t understand why Spike was always there for her, why he stuck around when she had rejected him time after time. She knew he loved her, or had loved her once, but was that really reason enough?
Buffy sensed Spike lean forward in his seat, and a moment later, the radio clicked to life. He flipped through the dial, finding something a lot more palatable to her sensibilities than ‘80s punk, and left it on low, the sound nearly lulling her to sleep. There was a part of Buffy that knew she should never feel safe sleeping in the company of a vampire, much less one who had once declared himself her mortal enemy. But she couldn’t have felt safer if she had been lying in her own bed, in her own room, back on Revello Drive. She knew that Spike meant her no harm. She knew that he would protect both her and Dawn with his life. She had nothing to fear from him, except perhaps, that he still loved her a little more than he should. And so, Buffy allowed herself to drift off to sleep in the front seat of Spike’s DeSoto, his long leather coat wrapped snuggly around her as, together, they made their way back home.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/643824.html