Buffy sighed. Dark. It was always dark, lately. Even during the day, it was dark to her. Maybe it was because everything had been so bright in heaven, and it was just taking time for her to readjust. Whatever the reason, there was one place where the darkness was comforting. Because, when she was there, with him, she didn’t have to pretend to be happy. Didn’t have to force a smile onto her face. Didn’t have to laugh at stupid jokes or pretend to care when people spoke to her.
Her ‘friends’. Yeah. Right. Friends don’t yank you out of the only peace you’ve ever known just so you can come back to this… this… horribly dark place, and save their collective butts. But they didn’t know. They hadn’t known where she was. She couldn’t blame them. Couldn’t… But did, anyway. Maybe that’s why it was so easy when she was with him. With Spike. He knew. And if he could’ve, he would’ve stopped them. Would’ve let her rest in peace. Because he loved her. Was in love with her. And, for some strange reason, that same fact, the fact that she’d found disgusting less than a year earlier, was a comfort. A comfort she needed.
And that’s why she found herself in the middle of a cemetery every night. Not to ‘patrol’, as she told everyone else, but to see Spike. His calming presence was something she sorely needed right then. She moved slowly to the crypt, and pushed open the door. Absently wondering when her habit of not knocking had started feeling wrong. “Spike?”
He’d almost been asleep. Almost. Her voice startled him, and he jumped slightly in his old green chair, turning his head to look at her. Half smile. “Hey, luv.”
She stood in the doorway, arms wrapped around herself, chewing on her bottom lip. “You were sleeping. I’ll go.”
He sat up a little straighter. “No. I wasn’t. You can stay.” She still looked undecided, so he added, “Please?”
A ghost of a smile crossed her lips. He wanted her to stay. Good, cause she hadn’t really wanted to leave, either. “Okay.” Shut the door behind her, and looked around. He’d been playing with his furniture again. Moved stuff around. Funny how it’d taken her four days to realize that the furniture in her own living room wasn’t the same, and yet here… Here, she noticed when a single candle was moved.
Spike got up, stretching a little, putting the book that was in his lap down in the chair and moving toward her. “Can I get you somethin’, luv?”
She was staring at a new statue of a howling wolf that he’d put on one of the sarcophagus’, and either didn’t hear him, or was unwilling to respond. She’d been doing that a lot lately. Staring off into space and totally zoning out. Dawn had told him a couple of days earlier that Buffy’d gotten into the habit of staring at the drain in the kitchen sink. And it freaked her out. Spike had told her to just give it time. Buffy’d be fine before she knew it. Outwardly, he’d seemed so certain, that Dawn had accepted it without even a hint of a fight. Inwardly, he was starting to worry. More than he’d worried before. And that was saying something.
He cautiously moved toward her, and started to put a hand on her shoulder, then thought better of it. Who knew what she’d do? Might throw him clean through the wall. Cleared his throat. “Luv? Buffy?”
It was her turn to jump. “Huh?” Looked at him.
He licked his lips. “I asked if you wanted something. Like, to eat, or drink, or… I don’t know. Read.”
She gave him a curious look. “Read? Since when do you offer people books?”
He half laughed and shrugged. “Dunno. Didn’t really make sense when I said it, either.”
She kind of smiled. “Do you even have food? Like, non-bloody food?”
He cocked his head. “I think so.” Moved toward the hole in the floor. Was a little surprised when she grabbed his arm.
“Where’re you going?” Her voice sounded nervous. Scared, even.
“Uh, downstairs. To see what’s in the fridge.” Her grip on his arm tightened. Painfully. Maybe she didn’t want him to leave her alone. “You can come with me, if you like. Like I said earlier, the downstairs is really quite nice. Much better than up here.”
Her grip relaxed, then released. He wasn’t leaving her. Good. “Yeah.” Followed him down the short ladder. He’d been telling the truth. It almost looked like a small apartment down there, now. With a real bed, and a small, makeshift kitchen. She went and sat on the bed, watching as he entered the kitchen and looked in the mini-fridge. Gazed around. Nice. Really nice. With a little couch, and a rug, and the bed was really soft. She wondered if it was one of those pillow-top things. Bounced a little to see. Yep. Pillow-top. At least. Maybe feather-top. And Spike was talking. “Huh?”
“I said that all I have is bread, and strawberry jam.”
Her face lit up. “Jam sandwiches! Mom used to make jam sandwiches.”
He smiled, seeing the look on her face. “Okay. I think I can do that.” A few minutes later, he brought one jam sandwich over to the bed. She took the plate and started to get up, but he gently took her arm and set her back down. “S’ok, luv. I eat on the bed all the time.”
Slight frown. “But blood doesn’t make crumbs.”
He chuckled. “I’m not afraid of a few crumbs, Buffy.” Decided to try for a joke. Lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Unless, they’re evil, demon crumbs, come to make my sheets terminally uncomfortable.”
Smile, and an almost giggle as the Slayer took a bite of her sandwich. “No evil crumbs. They’d run away from us.”
“They’d run away from *you*. Me, they’d probably try to form an alliance with.”
“And you’d surprise them by turning them all over to me.” A crumb flew out of her mouth as she spoke, and hit his shirt.
He exaggerated panic. “Ahh! Evil crumb! Evil crumb! Get it off!”
Now she did giggle, pausing for a moment to swallow the last bite of her sandwich. Put her plate on a chest that was near the foot of the bed. Wiped at his shirt. “I think it took root. I can’t get it off.”
“Oh, help. Whatever will I do?” Soap Opera voice. “It’s got me…” He keeled over backwards on the bed, and was still.
She giggled again, and tried to pick the crumb off his shirt. Dang, that thing was stuck. Must’ve had jam on it. Got it off. And there was another one. Got it too. Through all this, Spike remained motionless, eyes closed, not even breathing. She finished picking crumbs off him. “There. I killed all the evil crumbs.” He still didn’t move. This annoyed her. “Hey! What’d you do? Fall asleep?” Prodded him a little. “Wake up. I’m bored.” Still no movement. Poked again. Ah! A twitch. Hmm. He twitched when she poked at his ribs. Hmm, again. Evil idea.
Spike, meanwhile, was enjoying hearing the quiet playfulness in her voice. It was something that he hadn’t heard before. And she- Ooh! Crap! He hoped she wouldn’t do *that* again. It tickled. Oh no. If she saw him jerk…
Buffy licked her lips, suddenly feeling more *here* than she had in weeks. New game! She had a new game! Tickle Spike. Time for a little more experimentation before she went full out. Being an older sister, she was a very experienced tickler. Poked high on his ribs. A twitch. Low. Jerk. Stomach. Slight wiggle. Bellybutton. Half snort. Light pinch at the sides of his waist. Half laugh, very well hidden.
Spike was becoming slowly panicked. This was gonna be bad. Very, very, veeeerrrrryyy bad. Every poke to a new spot sent waves of chills up his spine, and he had to fight to hold in laughter when she started very lightly drawing her fingers up and down his sides.
Buffy giggled again. She was having fun. She’d almost forgotten what that felt like. Spike had opened his eyes, but couldn’t open his mouth to protest, or the giggles that were threatening him would escape. Instead, he was trying to squirm away from her. That couldn’t be allowed. She dug into his ribs, wiggling her fingers unceasingly. The response was instantaneous.
Spike howled with laughter, then began bucking and trying to get away. She began to laugh too, and kept up her attack, alternating between ribs, stomach, and waist, kneading, stroking, and pinching lightly. Spike was hysterical, and kept shaking his head ‘no’ at her. As if it would make her stop. Yeah. Right. This was too much fun to stop.
“Bufffy!”, the vampire howled, tears of laughter streaking down his pale face. “Pleeeeeeaaasssseeeee!”
She laughed. “Please what, Spike? Please keep tickling you!? Okay!”
“NOOoooooooOOO!” But, he had to admit, this was fun! Well, torture, but a fun torture. Especially since he knew that she was having fun, too.
After a good fifteen minutes of this, Buffy was laughing too hard to continue, and left off, sitting cross-legged on the bed, giggling quietly, as she watched the vampire struggle to compose himself. Spike wiped at the tears that were still on his cheeks, still sputtering slightly as he tried to get rid of the giggles that were still winning the fight against him. Finally, he composed himself enough to sit up and look at her. She was sitting at the head of the bed, giggling, but otherwise giving him her best ‘Who, me? I’m perfectly innocent’ look. He growled softly. Playfully. “Slayer.”
She grinned at him. “Vampire.”
“You’re supposed to *stake* vampires. Not tickle ’em to death!”
She laughed. “I know. But this was fun. And I don’t want to stake you. I like you.” Blinked. Well. That had just come out.
He grinned a little. “Well. Thank you. And now, I have a question for you.” He was moving toward her, slowly, predatorily.
A little apprehensive. “What?” Scooted back a little. Was he mad?
“Are *you* ticklish?” Pounced at her.
She dodged. “Ah! No!” He pinned her quickly, and his fingers quickly found ribs, sending the Slayer into a fit of squealing giggles. “Stooooooooopppppp!”
“Did you stop? No. So I’m not gonna eithER!” She’d begun fighting back. The two wrestled around on the bed for awhile, alternately gaining and losing the upper hand, until finally Buffy wound up on top, tickling her vampire prey with all she had.
“Never!”, Spike choked out amid helpless laughter.
“Fine.” Went for his armpits.
She laughed. “Sorry. I changed the magic word. It is now…” Thought for a moment. What would be the hardest thing to say while laughing? Ah. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
“NooOOOOO!”, Spike howled. “I… can’t….. there’s… no …. WAAAAAAAAYYYY!”
“Wrong again.” Dug into his ribs, then moved, very lightly, to his stomach. His shirt had ridden up, and she had very good access. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Spike squealed. Which would’ve been quite embarrassing, if he’d been aware that he was doing it. He tried, honestly tried, to say that stupid nonsense word. At least ten times, during various degrees and places of torture. Could not get it out. Finally, he took a deep breath, and shouted at the top of his lungs (so that a couple who were visiting a nearby grave were very, very creped out, as the ground had suddenly taken to spouting ‘Mary Poppins’ quotes), “SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!!!!!”
Buffy laughed, but, true to her word, she quit tickling him. Sat back. “I win.”
Spike lay there, his body spasming slightly, nerves jumping after the most intense workout he’d had in years. He was panting, and practically unable to move, but, to his own surprise, he was happy. Possibly because that was the most he’d heard Buffy laugh in.. well, ever. Even before the whole ‘torn from heaven’ thing. Finally managed to gain enough control of his muscles to drag himself into a sitting position. A ‘leaning against the pillows’ sitting position. But it was still sitting. Slowed his breathing, focusing on getting it under control. Gave the still giggling Slayer a grin. “Hope you’ve had your fun, luv.”
She nodded, still smiling. “Oh yeah. You’re lucky, though.”
Cocked his head. “How so?”
She gave him a semi-evil grin. “You’re wearing shoes and socks. I could’ve-”
“NO! Never. Slayer. Promise me you’ll never do that. Please.”
She laughed again. The total panic in his voice was so funny. “I promise. I guess.” The hand behind her back had fingers crossed. Giggled at him. “Somehow, Spike, I never thought that you’d be ticklish.”
He snorted at her, which, due to his exhausted condition, didn’t have quite the venom behind it that it usually did. “Oh? I have a human body, Slayer. Just like you.”
She shrugged. “Yeah. But, I mean… You’re always with the..” Made a face that Spike supposed was her way of imitating him vamped. It involved scrunching her nose, and curling her upper lip. “Grrrr. I’m a big, scary vampire! Be afraid! Run, you pathetic Happy Meals with legs!”
He chuckled at the quote. “And? I am a big scary vampire.”
She lost the ‘game face’, and giggled again. “No. Cause, if you tried to bite someone, and they tickled you, they’d get away. I bet Xander could stake you, if he’d known.”
Half growl. “I have control, you know.”
She went on. “And, if I had known about this when I first met you? You so would be blowing around on a breeze somewhere by now. I’d just have to get you close, a few quick tickles to your ribs, stake in, stake out, bye bye Spikey.”
“That wouldn’t be fair. I could do the same thing, and bite you, Slayer.”
She shrugged. “Yeah. I guess.” Suddenly looked a little scared. “Ooh. What if some vamp tries that!?”
Oops. He didn’t want her worried. “Not the type of thing that most vamps’d think up, luv. We’re more for the massacres with lots of blood, than the tickling.”
She smiled. “Yeah. I guess you’re right. Are all vamps ticklish?”
“No. Just like all humans aren’t.” Rueful chuckle. “But if you were when you were human, you will be as a vamp. And it’ll get worse.”
“Vamps are sensitive to gentle touches, luv. Pain, it takes a lot for us to feel it. But on the other end of the scale, we’re hypersensitive.” Why was he telling her this?! Oh, well. Cat. Bag. Out of. Nothing he could do now.
She was intrigued. “Like what?”
He shrugged. “Tickling. Scratching. Gentle rubbing. Vamps are like cats, kind of, when it comes to that stuff. And like dogs in others.”
Cocked her head. “Dogs? How?”
He sighed. “Might as well show you.” Laid down on his side. “Okay. Now. Low on my ribs…” Took her hand, placed it over the right spot. “Scratch. Not to light.”
She tentatively started scratching. Made it a little harder when he informed her by a twitch that she was tickling him. Then, suddenly the ‘dog’ thing started to make sense. Spike’s left leg started to jump, going like a little puppy havin’ it’s tummy rubbed. She laughed, and scratched a little faster, smiling when his leg sped up to match the new pace. At the same time, the vampire’s body relaxed, and his eyes closed. She kept scratching, still giggling at the mental image he was creating, and smiled when she identified a low rumble that he was beginning to emit. Purring. She was making Spike purr. How.. cute. She slowly stopped scratching, lowering it down to a firm rubbing, then finally leaving off completely. Smiled again, when she realized that the vampire was asleep. She started to get up and leave, but changed her mind. Leaving Spike’s meant facing the world again, and she just didn’t feel like doing that right then.
Glanced at the clock. She wasn’t due back from patrol for at least another couple of hours. Plenty of time for a nap. She yawned, and stretched out beside the slumbering vampire, draping an arm across his chest and resting her head on his shoulder. He was a very comfortable pillow. A pillow that was *still* purring. She smiled, and nuzzled closer, liking the way he smelled. Like soap, and leather, and clean shirt, and a smell that she didn’t have a name for, except that it was just… *Spike* smell. Comforting. Relaxing. She’d deal with the world later. Now was the time to sleep. So she did. And for the first time since she had clawed her way out of her own grave, she didn’t have nightmares. All thanks to the presence of a ticklish, and softly purring pillow, named Spike.