She sighed and turned to leave, not surprised to see Spike step out of the shadows.
"You shouldn't be here alone at night, pet." Spike dropped his cigarette and ground the butt underfoot. "There's nasty things about."
"I wasn't alone." Dawn meets his eyes for the first time. "You were here. You're always here."
Spike put an arm around Dawn's shoulders. "Let's get you home before you're missed." He felt her tense up and wondered whether he'd hit the heart of the problem or put his foot in it.
Shrugging Spike's arm away, Dawn turned back to her mother's grave and sat down. The etiquette of nocturnal visits to graveyards changed when one of the things that went bump in the night was watching your back.
"Want to talk about it, love?" Spike crouched beside her and lit another cigarette.
Dawn leaned against Spike's side, not bothered that the man who'd left a trail of death across Europe was the one who always made her feel safe. "With Mom gone, it's like I have no family."
"What about Buffy?"
"She's going through the motions, but she's not there." She looked up at Spike, watching the smoke curl around his head. He wasn't watching her, his eyes were scanning the cemetery, but he was listening.
"Willow or Xander have a problem and Buffy bends over backwards, yet she can't manage to sign a permission request that I've been reminding her about for a week. It's like I'm a stranger in my own house. She doesn't yell at me, she doesn't fight, she doesn't talk, she just rattles around the house like I'm not there."
"Talk to her." It wasn't the response Dawn was expecting. "Lay your cards on the table. Tell her what you expect from her."
Dawn stood, brushing grass from her jeans. "And if that doesn't work?"
"Family isn't always blood. Family is the people who care about you. Never think you're alone."
"Walk me home?"
Spike kissed her on the forehead. "My pleasure."
spikedawn — challenge #1: family