"I can't do it! You just don't understand!"
"It's impossible! I can't do it!"
"I'd be better off - I could help build huts. Huts are important!"
God, she sounded miserable. She was using that tone. The one that was equal parts panic and despair and deep, bone-crunching anxiety, laced with such defeat. It was breaking his heart. And the pitch of her voice was breaking his eardrums.
"You cannot drop out of medical school and join the Peace Corps." Spike couldn't keep the exasperation out of his voice.
"Yes, I could, too!" she wailed. "Peace is important. I could serve society that way." She took a deep breath. "I could...pay you back." Her voice sped up. "It's not that I don't appreciate it, Spike - you know I do! I think it's so cool that you help me pay for school and I'm seriously the only student with a rock star for a kind of Dad..."
Spike pulled the phone away from his face, so she wouldn't hear the startled gasp that comment produced. In the background, he could hear her voice in the receiver, tinny and shrill. "Kind of Dad." Huh. Spike smiled a tiny little smile. It grew into a larger smile, then a grin. He put the phone back up to his ear and cut Dawn off mid-sentence.
"No," he said. "You can't go."
"No." Softer, gentler. "You can't. I'd miss you too much."
Much later, after much discussion and a promise to pay for an organic chemistry tutor, he hung up the phone to find Xander leaning in the doorway, watching him.
"What?" he asked, no heat in the question.
Xander ambled into the room and sat on the sofa, still grinning at Spike.
"She called you her Dad, didn't she?"
Spike felt his mouth drop open and closed it quickly, frowning. "How'd you know?"
"Stupid grin," Xander said, gesturing toward Spike"s face. "Same one I got the first time she called me her brother."
Spike's grin couldn"t withstand the heat and light and magnetic force of Xander's.
"Congratulations," Xander said, clapping him on the shoulder. "It's a girl."