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The stench of decay permeated the air, lodging itself in Dawn's nostrils causing her nose to wrinkle. Her long slender fingers clung to an old sleeping bag, a duffel bag over her shoulder as she followed her sister wordlessly through the cemetery. Her eyes raked over the names on the tombstones, repeating them over in her mind, holding tightly to every drop of Sunnydale she could. She tried not to think of the fear, the overwhelming sense of dread that filled her to the point she was positive Buffy could feel it vibrate off of her skin.
She stopped a few feet behind Buffy, memorizing the strong lines of the crypt. She knew where they were going; she knew the reasons even if she didn't understand why. Dawn thought about asking her as Buffy threw their belongings into three small bags. She watched as Buffy left behind her favorite skirt, the one that she bought with Willow on that day trip to San Diego, the one she never let Dawn wear, to make room for their mom's smelly old bathrobe. And as Dawn watched her sister so carefully tuck the pale blue fabric inside her own duffel she knew not to ask. Sometimes there were no explanations.
Buffy paused at the heavy door before opening it, desperation painted in her hazel eyes. The words, "Learn to knock, Slayer," were tossed out in a familiar British accent before Buffy nodded her head, ushering Dawn inside.
Whatever rant Spike was about to go on seemed to die when he saw Dawn standing amidst the dirt of his crypt carrying her sleeping bag. "What's this all about then? Little family sleepover? Gotta tell you I’m all out of popcorn so you better go take this over to another one of your girlie mates."
Buffy approached him, her voice low as if trying not to tell Dawn what she already knew. "We're leaving."
"A holiday then? Well have fun, don't forget to write." Spike grabbed Buffy's arm trying to usher her to the door. It was too painful, this, just being around her. The emotion that rose every time he saw her was enough to choke him. He couldn't take her just popping in and out of his world. When she was gone he longed for her, his ears burned for the sound of her voice, even the most cutting remarks. Yet when she was there it was worse. He could barely keep from spilling his heart at her feet despite that he knew she would trample over it.
Buffy wrenched her arm free of Spike's grasp, oblivious to the spark of pain it caused. "We are leaving Sunnydale." Her hazel eyes flicked over her sister standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, arms crossed around her red sleeping bag. "I can't protect Dawn here. I have to get her some place safe."
Buffy shook her head. "Not yet. But it's just a matter of time. I'm not waiting until she does. I have to make sure Dawn is okay."
Spike nodded in understanding. "Don't want to be a sitting duck. I get that. But why the sudden romp over here? Feelin' a bit nostalgic, Slayer?"
Dawn eyed her sister, watching as her muscles twitched beneath the surface of her skin, in what she guessed was an attempt not to dust Spike where he stood. As it was her eyes grew dark, and her voice lost all of its softness. "Don't even go there, Spike." Buffy warned. She lowered her voice again. "If you want to go with us... well it would mean a lot to Dawn."
The vamp's blue eyes snaked back and forth between the Summers' sisters before coming to rest on Buffy. "Somehow I don't think the Scooby Gang would be too fond of that idea, pet."
With her gaze firmly planted on the ground Buffy admitted, "They're not coming, they don't even know..." Her eyes rose to meet Spike's, hazel and sapphire fires burning against each other. "You're the only one who knows." She sighed deeply, swallowing down tears that pricked her eyes. "If they knew... They would just end up hurt. It's better this way."
Spike looked to the brunette for confirmation. Dawn shot an annoyed glance his way. "So are you coming or not?"
It didn't take but a minute before he had thrown some clothes into a faded black denim bag and was walking beside Buffy out of the crypt muttering something about "borrowing a bloody car".
Dawn followed behind, hand grazing the cool marble of the headstone as they walked.
"Dawn, don't dawdle." Buffy's sharp voice sliced through the thick night.
"Coming..." Dawn called over her shoulder, trying to keep her tone as normal as possible. She took one last glance, imprinting the name Dorris Robertson in her mind, her last mental token of her life in Sunnydale.