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Chapter Two


Dawn was feeling a tad nervous. That wasn't silly, one a.m. in Sunnydale was not a good time and place to be pounding the sidewalk. Dawn would just keep her eyes and ears open and get safely home to the sister that was going to murder her. 'Sleepover at Janice's' became 'Bronzing with Janice' which had all been fun and games until Janice had ditched her for a boy with a moped and left Dawn to slink back to her own home alone. In the dark. To her soon-to-be-violently-angry big sister. It was sensible to be nervous under such circumstances. Because Dawn definitely wasn't scared of walking home by herself. She'd seen Buffy fight a dozen times, she'd learnt the moves, she knew how to handle herself. Those unfamiliar noises weren't creeping her out, no siree.

But still she was relieved when the house came into view, Buffy now within screaming distance. Unfortunately when one of the shadows did leap out at her, it clamped a cold hand over her mouth, cutting off the scream before she'd drawn breath. Dragging her into the bushes with an iron grip that gave no room to struggle.

"Damnit, snacksize! Quit wriggling, you'll set my chip off."

The voice was an unrecognisable hiss but the words familiar and Dawn sagged with relief in Spike's arms. He loosened his grip and removed his hand.

"You stupid vampire! I thought you were going to kill - mphfff!"

"Might do at that, you don't keep it down. Look." Using the hand now firmly covering her mouth again Spike turned Dawn's head in the direction of her next door neighbour’s driveway. It took Dawn's human eyes a good few seconds to make anything out that far from a streetlight, then she could just about see the outline of a van hidden in the shadow of a Leylandai row, possibly something moving nearby. She pulled his hand away.

"What's that?"

"Your sis. Drugged I think. Initiative wankers."

"Wh-"

"Shhh. 'M listening."

Dawn could hear nothing over the usual creaks and groans of a windy night, but obediently she kept quiet, crouched in the bushes with Spike. Again he put a hand out to silence her, this time stilling her nervously bouncing leg. "Quiet."

After what seemed like an age of keeping still, Dawn caught the softened clicks of car doors closing, followed by the rev of a quiet engine. The teen could keep silent no longer.

"Spike! Was that Buffy? Are they leaving with Buffy? Do something!"

"Humans, bit. What would you have me do?" The van pulled out of the driveway and turned onto Revello drive. Spike watched till it was out of sight then pulled Dawn to her feet. "Get in the house. They got what they came for."

"Did you get the number plate? We could-"

"Don't be stupid." The front door had clearly been busted open and with little finesse, handle still attached to the frame and splintered wood swinging freely. Spike pulled Dawn inside and started dragging the hall table across as a barricade. "And don't put any lights on, just in case. They were headed to some place called Burnham Beaches. You know it?"

"That's the bit of coast south of Sunnydale Bay. I think it's mostly desert."

"Figures. Sounds like there's an army base there now." A hat stand joined the table, wedged securely across.

"But what's going on?" Dawn asked, and though she could hear the plaintive and scared note in her voice she could not control it.

"Not a bloody clue. Check the back door, yeah? They were soldiers alright, using all the Initiative lingo. Were talking about Washington but it sounded like they'd be holding her at this place a while."

"But what do they want with Buffy?"

Impatiently Spike pushed her towards the kitchen, where the back door was wedged open. "I ain't psychic shortstuff. 'Cause she crossed swords with the Initiative mark I? To build superSlayer soldiers? To recruit her as the president's new bodyguard for all I fucking know, that guy's got to have a few dodgy demon pals. When's your mum back?"

"Two days after Christmas."

"Fuck. Anyone in town but the whelp?"

"Not really. Spike, what are you doing?"

He was tugging on the back door, which had been thrown open so forcefully the handle was embedded into the plaster of the kitchen wall. "Closing this door so nothing gets in and eats you. What do you bleeding think I'm doing?"

"What are you doing here?"

The back door swung closed with an angry bang, not fastened but defensible. Now that he'd run out of things to do with his hands, Spike started patting down his duster for cigarettes. "Brought ‘round a star for your tree," he mumbled.

"Oh I knew it! You are so crushing on my sister!"

Spike fixed her with his best evil glare, the one guaranteed to chill any human to their very marrow. Unsurprisingly, Dawn remained immune. "Shut your filthy mouth. That's just twisted."

"Oh you so-"

"I said shut it!" The volume made her jump, but Dawn wasn't intimidated and faced him with that obstinate gleam in her eye that told the world she was made from her sister. Her sister who'd just been snatched from her home by a bunch of official looking shadows and taken away, possibly for torture. And because she didn't want to show she was scared - that would mean admitting there was a reason to be scared - Dawn stomped her foot and glared right back at the vampire. "Looks like you and I are it for team whitehat," Spike continued irritably. "Best not be pissing off the nice vampire, yeah?"

"We have to rescue her."

He nodded shortly. "We need a plan. Got a light, Nibblet?"

She shook her head, watching in tense silence for minutes as Spike busied himself trying to light his fag from the toaster. He finally managed to coax out a plume of smoke and turned back to the girl.

"What we need is a map," he said decisively. "Got a couple hours till daylight but there's no point haring after her till we know where she is. Nip to the Magic Box, find out where she is, make a plan. Your mum take her car?"

Another head shake. "It's in the garage. But what can we do, Spike? You can't fight them and I'm not exactly Lara Croft."

"That'll be part of the plan. Less you've got something better?"

Dawn didn't. Buffy was the go-to girl for violence and daring rescues, and Buffy emphatically wasn't here. That part was just sinking in now.

"They called her an acquisition, pidge," said Spike in a gentler voice. "They weren't for killing her. Time's on our side."

"But what are we going to do?"

"We'll get cracking." He yanked open the creaking door and took a determined step into the night. "How are you with magic?"

********


"What do we need Motherwort for?"

"It was in the book, I think. Just find it."

"What book?"

"Bleeding hell, Dawn! Do you ever stop asking questions?" But even as he snapped the vampire felt a twinge of guilt. Then a twinge of annoyance about the guilt. Though stubbornly unafraid of him, it was easy to see the girl was scared for her sister, and to be honest so was Spike. Scared of the sheer terror that bubbled up at the idea of Buffy caged by the same people who'd fucked with his head. Scared that she'd disappear forever into the bowels of some Area 51 and he'd never get to kill her for being stupid enough to get taken by a bunch of puny humans.

The Magic Box was starting to look a tad ransacked. As this was a Slayer related emergency, Spike had ignored Dawn's instructions to be careful, had torn the handle off the door with one quick twist and not bothered with tidiness as they'd searched for what they needed. Books were falling from shelves as he'd pulled down any that might contain a locator spell. Herbs lay scattered over the counter, candles in disarray. Grocery bags full of pilfered goods were stacking up on the table as Spike tried to cover all his bases before the sun came up.

"You do like her, don't you?"

Too busy piling up candles and vials of sand to glare, Spike feigned ignorance. "Nina Simone? The bird from the Victoria’s Secret commercial? You wanna narrow it down some?"

"Buffy."

"Yes. I have the greatest respect and admiration for her fists. Have you found the dried lizard’s feet?"

"Lizard feet, check. You do, don't you?"

"No."

"So why are you going all gung-ho to rescue her? I thought you were eeevil."

The vampire tossed the girl an empty jar. "Get newt feet too," he said crossly. "Can't remember what the spell said. And you ever hear me say I wouldn't wish this chip on my worst enemy? That's why."

"Wishing isn't the same as rescuing," argued Dawn stubbornly, grabbing a handful of dried amphibian toes from the big jar behind the counter.

"Well I guess I'd rather fall in with the Slayer than the government. That everything?"

"Yup. You're crushing on her, aren't you?"

That was the point where Spike's patience ran out and he would have hit her, chip or no. But when he whirled around, hand raised, she had the big pleading eyes turned on him and Spike realised she was seeking security from the same fear that was driving him to anger. Just a child really, a child who'd just misplaced half her tiny family and was finding the strength not to blubber about it. Maybe he could find patience.

"Fine. If it makes you feel better to think I want a ride on your sister then fine. I'm crushing on Buffy. You keep it to yourself and I'll pretend not to notice you're crushing on me, deal?" Spike grinned at her as he gathered up the bags and she managed to smile back. "Can that. You tell anyone I even used that phrase and I'll-"

"Kill me in several different and imaginative ways. I got it."

"Good."

The product of their burglary all collected up, Spike kicked open the door, stepped onto the deserted four a.m. street and Dawn followed. The door sagged uselessly behind them. "Now that's breaking in."

"Yes, you're still evil," recited Dawn dutifully. "Do we have a plan yet?"

"We do. Off to my crypt."

"That's the plan?"

"That's the next step."

"Is step three hiding in your crypt until Buffy finds her own way home?"

Spike caught her arm and spun her around to face him. "We're going to rescue your sister, you hear me sweetheart? Between us we've got more brains than the American Military and we want her more, don't we, and that means we're going to win. So you quit worrying, we’ll have her home by Christmas. I'm not going to let you down, you got it?"

He held her gaze till she nodded. "Good. There's a book back at my crypt that I need then we'll get back to your house for the day, just in case the little shits come looking for me too. They ain't likely to raid your place twice. We'll do the location spell when it gets light, give you time to figure these books out and give them time to stop moving. Then you can do this spell to take my chip out and when it gets dark I'll leave you with the whelp, go kill me a few soldiers. That's a plan, right?"

"No. Way."

Ah. The stupidly optimistic part of Spike had hoped if he snuck that in there normal enough she'd fall in line; she was only a kid after all and used to being led. Maybe he shouldn't have mentioned killing soldiers. With a deep sigh he threw the stolen bags into the back of Joyce's SUV and pushed Dawn towards the passenger door.

"I know it's not exactly a Slayer approved plan, but it's the only one I've got and unless you fancy Xander's chances against the US Army, I suggest you go with it. I ain't looking to hurt you, bit, you know that. Isn't the chip that's making me help you now and I'm not going to turn on you when it's gone, but I'm no use to your sister like this. Wherever she is she'd going to be well protected and I won't be able to just grab her and run, I'll need to fight. You have to trust me."

Dawn let him run through this whole speech, backed up against the side of the Jeep, a mulish expression on her face. "You are not dumping me at Xander's while you go off to rescue my sister without me."

Spike blinked. "Do you have any priorities whatsoever?"

"I want my sister back."

"Fine." Teeth gritted, Spike pushed her into the seat and slammed the door. He jumped the bonnet and slid behind the wheel. "But you're phoning Giles before we leave. Then, when you get me killed, at least he'll know where to look for his Slayer."

Chapter Three

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