“Dawn! Where the bloody hell are you, Nibblet?” I called as I wandered through the kitchen of the Summers’ home. How I, Spike, killer of two Slayers, one fourth of the Scourge Of Europe, and all around Big Bad, wound up playing hide and seek with the Slayer’s teenaged sister, I still don’t know. I was Key-sitting, she got bored, and next thing I knew, I was counting to thirty.
“Come on out, Lil’ Bit. I can smell you.” I sniffed the air. Hmm. I smell Buffy, lots of Buffy. Oh, wait. There’s Dawn’s scent by the fridge. She wouldn’t be in there… No. Alright. Time to look somewhere else. Ah, upstairs. I’ll look upstairs.
“Dawn,” I called in a singsong voice. “Where are you? Whe- WHOA!”
“OW!” She left a bloody skate at the top of the stairs. “Alright, Bit. That does it. No more mister nice vampire.”
I pushed myself up and heard giggling coming from the hall closet. “Ah ha!”
I yanked the door open and Dawn screeched, then bolted past me, running down the stairs like a minion of Hell was after her. Oh, yeah. I was chasing her, wasn’t I? I turned and ran down the stairs after her. “Nibblet, I’m faster than you, running is just delaying the inevitable.” Momentarily, I find myself wondering if “evitable” is a word, I don’t think so. Then I catch myself. When the bloody hell did I start thinking like William again?
I pause at the bottom of the stairs, listening for her telltale heartbeat, when I hear a key turn in the lock. Buffy’s home. She opens the door and sees me. Maybe I imagined it, but I thought I saw a ghost of a smile cross her lovely face.
“Spike, hi.” She looks around. “Where’s Dawn?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
She looks scared for a moment. “Oh, no, Luv. She’s fine. We’re playing hide n’ seek.”
She sighs, visibly relieved. “Oh. We used to do that all the time. I’ll help you look.”
Side by side, sort of like when we patrol, we slowly roamed through the living room and the kitchen. “Dawnie,” Buffy called. “I’m home! Where are you?”
I grinned. “No use, Luv. I already tried calling her, she’s too smart for that.”
Buffy looked at me. “Well, we’re just gonna have to be smarter.”
Ten minutes later, and we were still looking. Damn, Nibblet is good at this game. Buffy and I had split up in order to cover more ground. I took the downstairs and Buffy went upstairs to check the bedrooms. Apparently, Dawn really had a thing for hiding in closets. Little did I know that she was better at this game than I thought.
I kept winding up in the living room, her scent was all over the place in here. And the sound of her heartbeat was really close. Of course, she could be in the room directly above me, and I could still hear her. She wouldn’t be behind the couch? Would she? I bent over and looked. Suddenly, a small weight slammed into my back and knocked me onto the couch. “OOOOF!”
“Gotcha, Spike!”, Dawn called from her perch on my back.
“Funny, Lil’ Bit,” I said into the couch cushions. “Now geroff my back!”
“Nuh-uh,” she said with a laugh. “I have a better idea.”
“What? I said get off!”
“No.” And with that, she began to tickle my ribs.
“Ahh!”, I yelped. “Stop… stop it!” Bloody hell! How did she know? I had a real problem. If I gave in to my reflexes and bucked her off, I might hurt her. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to stay still when someone is tickling you. Especially on the ribs. So I picked option number three. “Buf-…. Buffy!”, I called between giggling fits. “Slayer! He-… help me!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Buffy come down the stairs, and freeze. Then she did something that I hadn’t seen her do in a long time, even before the whole Glory/Key thing. She started laughing, hard. Holding onto the stair rail, tears coming out of her eyes, laughing hysterically. Ok, don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing her laugh, but I wished she could have picked a better time. Preferably not when I’m being tickle tortured.
I managed to roll partially over. Bad idea, now Dawn could reach my stomach. “Bloody… Dawn! Come… on… please… stop! SLAYER!”
“Buffy, don’t help him, help me! I can’t keep him down!”, Dawn called. Oh no. She wouldn’t, she couldn’t. She did. Buffy joined the fight, using her Slayer strength to hold me down, one handed, and tickling me unmercifully with the other. I howled and threatened, I rolled and squirmed. Nothing worked. Thank whatever listened to vampires that I couldn’t suffocate, or the Summers’ girls would have been laughing all the way to the hospital. Truth be told, I was actually starting to enjoy this. Nothing like this had happened to me in over a hundred years. I used to have tickle fights with my little sisters when I was human, and this was bringing back some fond memories. Of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to get away, though.
I finally managed to roll off the couch and out from under my tormenters. I scrambled to my feet and ran, with the entire Summers’ family hot on my heels. I bolted into the kitchen, with the intention of running out the door. Oh no. Sun’s not quite down, yet. Ok, basement. As I ran down the stairs, a thought occurred to me. Wasn’t the basement….
Dawn and Buffy stopped halfway down the stairs and nearly collapsed laughing. I, on the other hand, didn’t find anything funny about my current predicament. I was now standing in waist deep water, but I was completely soaked. Since I fell all the way in before I got up. I slowly walked over to the stairs, a mean look on my face. Dawn and Buffy stopped laughing. I paused at the base of the stairs, with them about a foot above me. Then I did my very best Beethoven (the dog, not the composer) impression and shook water all over them.
They squealed and leaped down into the water. This started a splash fight, with the three of us laughing and throwing handfuls of cold water at each other. I wound up being completely dunked a few times, when Dawn tried to climb onto my back to escape Buffy’s splashing. Eventually, exhausted and soaked, we wandered up out of the basement. Dawn ran upstairs and got some towels while Buffy turned the heater on. We dried off as best we could, and Dawn and Buffy went upstairs and changed into their pajamas. They brought me a dark blue, fluffy robe and we all put our clothes in the dryer. Then we settled down to watch some TV.
Survivor was coming on, anyway.
A couple of hours later, Buffy and Dawn had dozed off. We were all on the couch. Dawn had tipped over and had her head on my lap. Buffy was on my other side with her head on my shoulder. Both were breathing deeply, sound asleep. I looked down at the two people I loved most in the world. Dawn, a smart, cute, funny little human who had managed to get into a place in my heart that I thought I’d lost so long ago. And Buffy. The Slayer. Who’s friends “cared” about her so much that they ripped her out of the only peace she’d ever known, just so she could come back here and save their asses. You know, a part of me wanted to tell them what they had done. But I wouldn’t. Not unless Buffy told me to. I keep my promises.
“I love you, Buffy,” I whispered, planting a light kiss on the top of her head.
Love? What is love, anyway? Some say love is letting go. No. Some say love is holding on. No. Love isn’t any one thing. It’s a combination of all those things and more. So much more.
Nothing is certain, especially in the lives of a Slayer and a vampire, but I’m sure of one thing. As long as I exist, I will love Buffy Summers. And I will protect her friends and family fiercely, nothing will harm them as long as I’m here. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s what love is. Devotion. Protection. Comforting.
I closed my eyes and rested my head back on the couch pillows. I could figure it out tomorrow.