Passions was over, and Dawn was glad. She liked hanging out with Spike, but it was another thing entirely when her mom was there, too. No stories. Which meant a bored Key. Not to mention that her Mom and the vampire had been discussing the finer plot points of that stupid show for the entire time that it was on. When they weren’t glued to the screen, that is. But now, it would be better. Joyce was rooting through her overnight bag, and Spike was lounging in his green chair, looking as if he was about to go to sleep.
Ok. Not much better.
Dawn sighed, and went to sit on a sarcophagus, fishing through her own bag, and extracting Rhino, her stuffed rhino. She hugged him to her chest. After awhile, Joyce came over and offered to read Dawn a story. She resisted. At first. After all, fourteen is a little old for a story… right? Wrong. Before too long, Joyce had begun reading one of Dawn’s favorite stories, Alice Through The Looking Glass, and Dawn had settled down, her eyes closed, listening to her mother’s voice.
From over in his chair, Spike was listening as well. And watching. How long had it been since someone took the time to read to him? Or even spend any quality time with him at all? Over a century, he realized. And it made the vampire a little sad. He had the irrational urge to go over to Joyce and curl up next to her, like Dawn was doing. Of course, though, he didn’t. Had an image, he kept reminding himself. *Have* an image. Big Bad. That was him. *Is* him. Really wished he didn’t have to keep reminding himself to keep it in the present tense. Sighed, sadly. Then quickly closed his eyes when he caught Joyce looking at him. Knew that, if she asked, he’d be over there like a shot. So he couldn’t let her ask. Still, that didn’t mean that he couldn’t listen. Joyce’s gentle, soothing voice slowly lulled the vampire to sleep.
“Mom! Ahh!” A wave of giggles washed through Dawn as her mother tickled her ribs.
Spike opened one eye at the happy sounds, a small smile finding it’s way to his face as he watched the mother and daughter play. Opened the other eye and cocked his head, watching. So. Lil’ Bit was ticklish, eh? And from the way that Joyce laughed when Dawn got in a good defensive poke, it seemed that she was too. He found himself wondering if the Slayer might be as well. Chuckled softly. Wouldn’t that be ironic? He’d spent the better part of the last five years fighting with the girl, and all that time, a few quick pokes and she’d have been at his mercy. Of course, if she’d had that particular thought first, *he’d* have been the one at *her* mercy. Nope. Not worth the risk. And Dawn was talking to him. “Huh?”
She cocked her head at him, from where she was now standing right next to his chair. “Where were you? I asked if you wanted to play.”
He licked his lips. There was a part of him that did want to play. To be included. But wasn’t sure if this *particular* game was a good idea. Cocked his head. “Don’t think so, Bit. Not much of the playful type.”
From over on the sarcophagus, Joyce laughed quietly. “What’s the matter, William? Afraid of being tickled?”
He gave a growl that came out a little more playful than he’d intended. “Don’t call me William.”
Joyce held up her hands in mock surrender. “Sorry, *Spike*.” Smiled. “So you are afraid, then.”
Yes, he thought. “No,” he said. Summoned up a indignant look. “I’m not afraid of anything, Joyce. And I’m not ticklish, either. Never have been.” ‘Liar,’ his little internal voice said.
Dawn gave him an evil grin. “You’re not, huh?”
Spike was suddenly painfully aware that his reclined position exposed his stomach. Began to shift around, without making it obvious. It was exactly what Dawn was watching for. “Mom! I think Spike’s lying.” Accusatory tone.
Joyce got up. Very glad that her pills allowed her this time, free from pain, to play with her daughter. Moved toward the chair. “Lying isn’t nice, William.”
Spike didn’t even respond to the name, he was too busy trying to figure out how he could curl up in the chair so that all his weak spots were protected. An impossible problem. Especially since Dawn chose that moment to pounce, going straight for his ribs.
“Ahhh!!”, Spike yelped, batting at Dawn’s hands. “Stop it, you…” Trailed off into a wave of helpless laughter. Joyce joined in, tickling at the vampire’s stomach. This confirmed Spike’s lifelong suspicion that all child care givers, be they parents, Nannies, or whatever, were trained in the art of tickling. Spike howled with laughter, squirming around in the chair, choking out pleas for them to stop, every time he could manage to do so. It certainly looked as if Spike was being tortured to within an inch of his unlife.
But he wasn’t. And, more to the point, he was having fun.
When he’d been little, it had been his favorite game. His Nanny had quickly learned that if she wanted little William to do anything, all she’d have to do is promise him some tickle time later, and he’d jump at the chance. He absolutely loved being tickled. Loved it. And he’d forgotten that, in the over a century that had passed. He was remembering quickly, though. Slowly, he stopped really fighting back. Stopped trying to grab their hands. Kept squirming, because it was a reflex that he couldn’t control, but if he’d been able to, he would’ve just held still and enjoyed it.
Joyce and Dawn were laughing right along with their vampire prey, and Joyce was quickly realizing that Spike was enjoying this. He acted the same way that Buffy and Dawn did when she tickled them. Fighting back for a moment, then relaxing and giving into the sensations. He loved it. Just like they did. She smiled. Wondered how long it had been since William had felt this good. Been this happy.
She’d often felt sorry for him, during their little talks. His life and unlife had been hard. Almost devoid of true affection. Familial love was something that he’d never really had. So Joyce did her best to show it to him. Giving him hot cocoa, with the little marshmallows that he loved so much. Talking with him, playing with him. He needed this sort of thing, and Joyce believed that, slowly, but surely, it was things like this that brought William out of Spike. Over the last year, she’d watched him turn from a snarky, rude, and even scary vampire, to a sweet, thoughtful, playful, and sometimes, even gentle, misunderstood man. And she was glad that he let them see him like this. See the real person that he hid so well.
Spike managed to get control of one hand for a moment, and set to work tickling Dawn’s ribs. She squealed and giggled, trying to grab his hand. The trio wrestled around for a bit longer, until Spike reached the point where he could barely breathe. Then, and only then, did the two Summers stop, sitting on the arms of the green chair, with a still giggling vampire in the middle. He was panting, and grinning like an idiot. Dawn giggled, and bent down to give him a quick hug, which he returned, without even a thought of his ‘image’.
Joyce smiled down at them, and her smile got even wider when they yawned at the same time. She patted Dawn on the head. A little surprised when she realized that it was almost midnight. “I think it’s time we got some sleep,” she said gently.
Dawn yawned again. “I’m not sleeping on a sarcophagus,” she said sleepily.
Spike grinned, and gently moved her off his lap. “You won’t have to, Bit. Hold on a second.” He moved back into the darkened back of the crypt, and dragged two cots out. “Don’t worry. They’re new. I’ve been putting the two of ’em together, when I’m a bit hurt. The soft mattresses help a little.” Set the two cots up slowly, putting blankets and pillows on them. Stepped back to admire his work. “There you go.”
Dawn crawled onto one of the cots, Rhino clutched firmly in her arms. Joyce tucked her in, and sat on the other cot. Spike settled back down in his chair, but he wouldn’t remain there long.
Joyce got her book out, and started reading to Dawn again. Then paused, noticing Spike watching them. Patted the sarcophagus that her cot was up against. “Come on over, William.”
He cocked his head a little, “Are you.. serious, Joyce?” No mention at all of the name, this time, Joyce noticed.
Joyce gave that gentle, motherly smile that was such an inherent part of her. “Of course I am.” Patted the sarcophagus again.
Spike got up, taking in the looks of acceptance that both Summers were giving him. Moved slowly, crawling up onto the sarcophagus and stretching out. Laid his blanket over himself, and smiled when Joyce took that as an incentive to tuck him in as well, giving his ribs a little tickle before she returned to her book. He purred softly, a sound of contentment. Of happiness. A sound that he hadn’t made in.. he couldn’t even remember. Turned his attention to Joyce as she once again began to read. As she read, his eyelids began to droop, despite the late hour. He was exhausted from the tickle game, and was feeling happy and safe as well. Couldn’t hurt if he took a little, teeny-tiny nap, now could it? Closed his eyes, still purring softly
Buffy walked through the cemetery, headed for Spike’s crypt. Needed to check up on her mom and Dawn. Still couldn’t quite wrap her mind around what the Council had informed her about Glory. Decided to focus on the happy news. Giles was her Watcher again. And getting paid. Of the good. This was of the good.
Not to mention that it’d been reallllly fun to chuck that sword at that little wan- When had she started thinking in Spike-isms? Shook her head. Speaking of the Evil Dead, as Xander referred to the neutered vamp, she was at the door of the crypt. Listened. No sounds from within. This could be good, or bad. Slowly eased the door open to cut down on it’s creaking. Shone her flashlight around the darkened interior, finally settling on three shapes, the slow breathing assuring her that her family was not only safe, but sound asleep, as well. Moved into the crypt slowly, getting Spike’s matches out of his little ‘cabinet’, and lighting a few of the candles. Just enough to augment her Slayer night-vision, but not enough to wake the three sleeping figures. Moved closer to consider the sleepers.
Dawn was curled up in a semi-fetal position on a cot, hugging Rhino, her favorite stuffed animal. Joyce was in the cot next to her, sound asleep with Dawn’s copy of Alice Through The Looking Glass open on her stomach. And Spike… Spike was atop the sarcophagus that Joyce’s cot was against, and he was making a noise. Growling? No. Softer. And it made her feel good to hear. Purring. Spike was purring. And smiling in his sleep, too. How.. cute. Buffy smiled a little. No need to wake any of them.
She yawned. It had been a very, very long night. Heck. Long *week*. She crawled up in-between her sister and mother, where the two cots were shoved against each other, snuggling close to both. Yawned again. Safe. She was safe. They were safe. All of them were safe. And she could worry about other things tomorrow. Now, sleep sounded really good. The Slayer closed her eyes, and joined her sister and mother in sleep.
On the nearby sarcophagus, Spike had opened one eye when he’d sensed the Slayer’s proximity. Had watched her light a couple of candles, and crawl into bed with her family. He smiled to himself. He’d done good. Maybe, if he was lucky, she’d even thank him. Yawned, and snuggled down on the cold concrete, pulling his blanket up around him and pillowing his head on his arms. There would be time for all that… -Yawn-… in the morning.