Spike had now been living with the Summers family for over a month, and things had just gotten better. He was really settled in, and instead of living on the couch, the girls had insisted that he move into the basement. He now had his own bed, and a little fridge for blood, a bookcase, and a recliner of his own. All in all, it was a very comfortable room for the vampire. Just the same, he was very seldom down there. Like right now, for instance.
“I still don’t get it,” Dawn said. “The little castles only go straight, but the horsies go in an L?”
Spike nodded. “Yeah. And the ‘horsies’ are called ‘knights’, and the castles are rooks.”
“Ah. And how do the bishops move?”
“Diagonals only. On the same color that they start on.”
“So this one,” she said, pointing at the bishop next to the her white queen. “Can only go on black squares, and the other one only on white?”
“You’ve got it,” Spike said with a chuckle. “Now, quit stalling. You’re just acting like you’re confused because I’m winning. Your move.”
Dawn pouted. “Fine.” She jumped her knight across the row of pawns and left it in front of her bishop. “There.”
Spike slid his rook six spaces forward, three in front of her king. “Check.”
Dawn snorted, and moved her king backwards and left. “Not now.”
The game continued, with Dawn playing incredibly well for someone who was just learning Chess, for another two hours. Finally, Spike managed to corner her king through a move that she made him explain three times just to assure herself that the vampire wasn’t cheating. “Checkmate, Bit.”
“Rats.” She grinned. “Two out of three?”
Spike chuckled. “You’re on, Nibblet.” He set the pieces up again, and the two began again. This time, the game lasted less than an hour, and Dawn won. “Ha! Checkmate, Spikey.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah. I let you win.”
“You did NOT! I won because I’m good. And we still have to play one more time to see who wins.” She gave him an evil grin. “Wanna play for stakes?”
Spike cocked his head. “I’m assuming you don’t mean the wooden kind?”
She laughed. “No! I mean a bet. Privileges.”
Spike shrugged. “Sure, I guess. What kind of privileges?”
She giggled. “If I tell you, you can’t back out, cause you already agreed, okay?”
The vampire closed his eyes. “Now I know I’m not going to like this. What’re the privileges?”
She grinned. “Tickling privileges. If I win, I can tickle you for as long as I want, any time I want, for a- No. For TWO weeks.”
Spike’s eyes got big. “Shit.” He shook his head, but agreed. “And when I win, I get the same on you, then?”
She nodded. “Yeah. But you’re not going to win.”
“We’ll see, Bit. We’ll see.”
Buffy and Joyce came home from shopping, and dropped their bags in the kitchen. Both were surprised that the youngest Summers and their vampire houseguest weren’t in the living room watching a movie. Buffy cocked her head, hearing something from upstairs. She shot a look at her mom, who shrugged. The two made their ways up the stairs, both carrying weapons, just in case. When they reached the door of Dawn’s room, both lowered their weapons. The sounds of struggling that were coming from the bedroom were combined with the sounds of hysterical laughter and a British voice begging for mercy.
Buffy grinned at her mother and opened the door, revealing Spike thrashing around on the bed as Dawn tickled him unmercifully. Dawn looked up, not pausing her assault. She grinned at her sister and mother. “He lost Chess.”
Joyce chuckled and leaned on the doorframe, watching as Buffy joined her sister in attacking the vampire, helping to hold him still.
“Nooot faaaairrr!”, Spike howled, laughing uncontrollably. “Stooooop!”
Buffy and Dawn giggled and kept up their attacks, going for the weak spots that they now had an intimate knowledge of. There was a spot, high on his ribs, just between the second and third ribs, that would make him go absolutely crazy. And they were torturing the spot on both sides, bringing the vampire to tears. “Pleeeeeeaaaasssseeee!!!??”
From the doorway, Joyce called to her daughters, “Alright, girls. He’s had enough now.”
Obediently, the girls both stopped their tickling and sat back, giggling at the panting vampire. “You okay, Spike?”, Dawn asked playfully.
Spike was still rather unable to respond, due to a fit of giggles that hadn’t quite ended yet. Buffy laughed. “Come on, Dawn. Let’s help him out a bit.” The sisters began gently scratching the vampire’s ribs and stomach, getting rid of the itching that they’d caused. This also caused Spike to start purring quietly.
After a moment, they stopped their scratching, and Spike moved up to the head of the bed and leaned against the headboard, still panting slightly. Dawn crawled up next to him and snuggled against his side. Instinctively, Spike put an arm around her.
Buffy, who was sitting sideways on the edge of the bed, smiled at them. “Since you’re so tired now, Spike, you don’t have to come patrolling tonight, if you don’t want to.”
Spike chuckled and shook his head. “And miss the chance to kill some nastiest with you? Never.” Their time together was beginning to mean more to him than he was willing to admit. Spike was falling in love with her, but he didn’t want to risk their friendship by telling her that. It was like the dogs in the story that he’d told them a month earlier. As it was, he jumped at the chance to spend time with her, be it patrolling, or playing, or anything else she wanted to do.
Buffy smiled. Spike was always willing to come patrolling with her. They’d been spending a lot of time together lately, and Buffy couldn’t be happier. She had no idea why they’d had such a hard time getting along before that fun night at Giles’ over a month and a half earlier. They had a lot in common. More than they knew.
“-really nice, and he said that.. Hello, Earth to Spike?” She waved her hand in front of his face. “Spike? Hello?”
“Huh?”, the vampire said, slightly startled. “Oh, sorry, luv. I was just thinking.”
“Well, did you hear me?”, Buffy asked, twirling her stake expertly. They were about an hour into patrol, and had only found a small nest of vamps, and three demons.
Spike gave her a sheepish look. “No. I’m sorry, luv. Really.”
She sighed. “Well, see if I ever tell *you* something important again.”
He chuckled. “Sorry. I’m listening now. Tell me again?”
She grinned. “Well, I was in the college library, and I accidentally dropped some books off a high shelf, and they hit this guy.”
She whacked his shoulder. “No! Anyway, he was really nice about it. And he even invited me out for coffee! His name’s Riley Finn.”
Outwardly, Spike didn’t react, inwardly, his heart fell into his left shoe. “So.. You’re going on a date?”
Buffy shrugged. “Not really. It’s just coffee. Not a date.” Hmm. She’d kind of hoped that he’d object to this.
Spike trotted ahead a ways, then waited for Buffy to catch up. “Good for you, Slayer. It’s good that you’re over my poof of a Grandsire.”
Buffy caught up to him, chewing her lip. “Well.. I’m not really, to tell you the truth. But it is time to move on. Don’t you think? I mean, that’s why Angel left in the first place, so that I could move on.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah. Break you heart for you own good. That’s really good reasoning.”
She ignored that. “What about you? Do you think you’ll ever be over Drusilla?”
The vampire’s eyes clouded. “I doubt it. At least, not for quite some time.”
She nodded. “Yeah. I get that.”
The pair walked on in silence for awhile, pausing only to take out a pair of fledgling vamps. Finally, Buffy broke the silence. “Do you think it’s possible?”
Spike was confused. “Possible to what?”
She sighed. “Possible to fall in love more than once in a lifetime.”
Spike cocked his head. “I really don’t know. I’ve been in love three times in my entire life and unlife. One totally rejected me, the second dumped me after a hundred years… And the third isn’t really relevant here.” He hoped he hadn’t said too much.
She nodded. “I think I’ve been in love once that I’m sure of, and a second time that I’m not sure of yet.” She bit her lip. “I think I should talk to mom about this.”
Spike nodded. “Yeah. I think I’m gonna need to talk to Joyce when we get home, too.” He looked at her. “Are you going to go?”
She looked at him. “Go where?”
“For coffee with that guy you dropped the books on.”
She chewed her bottom lip for a moment. “Yeah.. I think so. And if that goes well, I’ll see what happens. Riley seems like a good guy. And normal. Something that I’m sorely lacking lately. I mean… Look at me. I have a friend who’s a practicing witch, another tentative friend who used to be a vengeance demon, and I’m living with a ticklish vampire in my basement,” she finished with a giggle, looping her arm through his and leaning her head on his shoulder.
Spike chuckled. “Yeah? Well, look at me. Former Big Bad, who now has a chip in my brain, can’t hunt humans, and is living with the Slayer’s family.” He gave her a sideways hug as they walked. “And loving it, I might add.”
Buffy giggled. “Yeah. Me too. And Mom and Dawn love you. You’re like Dawn’s… fangy big brother. Teaching her chess, and playing with her all the time. And Mom just loves having someone else who can cook for when she’s tired from work. You’re a big hit.”
Spike laughed a little. “Yeah. Your biological family loves me. As for the rest of your Scoobies, I don’t think they like me much.”
Buffy sighed. “Well… Willow likes you. She’s a little nervous around you, but I think she likes you. I know Giles likes you. Anya.. She doesn’t care, really. She’s been focused on Xander for awhile now. And Xander.. I won’t sugar coat it. He hates you. A lot.”
Spike snorted. “The feelin’ is mutual.”
She laughed. “Yeah. I know. Well, he’ll put up with you because I like you. So you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Spike paused, allowing Buffy to move a couple paces ahead of him. “Yeah,” he muttered. “Nothing to worry about.”
Two nights later, and Buffy was out on her ‘not date’ with Riley Finn, and Dawn was spending the night at a friend’s house, leaving Spike home alone until Joyce got home from the Gallery. He spent the time lounging on the couch, watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.
Finally, the door opened and Joyce came home. “Spike?”
“Living room.” He got up and took her purse and jacket. “Would you like me to fix you something for dinner, ducks?”
Joyce sighed. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble. I take it Buffy’s on her date?”
Spike barely concealed a snort. “Yeah. Left an hour ago. And Bit’s over at Kelly’s.” He headed for the kitchen. “I think we’ve got some left over lasagna from last night. Want it?”
Joyce settled on the couch. “Yes. Will you join me, Spike?”
Spike stuck his head around the corner from the kitchen. “Well.. Sure, I guess.”
Joyce sighed. “Good.”
Spike brought two plates of warmed up lasagna in and settled on the couch next to Joyce. “Rough day in the world of art?”
Joyce chuckled. “Let’s just say it was surreal with a little post-impressionism thrown in for variety.”
Spike chuckled. “That bad, huh?”
“Oh, let’s not talk about it.” She took a bite of lasagna. “Mm. It’s even better the second time. So, what’s new with you?”
Spike swallowed. “I think I might be in love with your daughter.” His eyes got huge. Why the HELL had he told her THAT!?
Joyce, for her part, just made an interested ‘hmm’ing noise. “Isn’t Dawn a bit young for you?”
Spike choked. “Huh!? No, I meant-”
Joyce sat her plate on her lap and patted him on the shoulder with a laugh. “I know what you meant, Spike. You just looked so.. serious. I thought I’d help you calm down.”
Spike shook his head with a chuckle. “Alright. It worked.” He looked at her hopefully. “So, you’re not mad at me?”
She shook her head. “I was just wondering when you’d notice it.”
She laughed. “Ever since you moved in here, and probably before. The way you look at her, talk to her. The way you react when she’s near you, when you play together. It’s been obvious to me for some time.”
Spike chuckled. “And I just figured it out last week.” He sighed. “And now she’s out with another guy.”
Joyce finished eating and put her empty plate on the coffee table. She reached over and gently scratched at the back of Spike’s neck, something that Buffy had shown her to help her calm him down. “It’ll be okay, Spike. Buffy is very picky about the people she lets into her heart. You’re already in there, whether or not you believe it.”
The vampire sighed and leaned on Joyce’s shoulder, allowing her to continue her scratching. “You really think so?”
Joyce nodded and rubbed small circles on his back. “Of course. She already knows what a great guy you are.” She gently kissed the top of his head in a motherly way and gave him a sideways hug. “Spike, what’s your name?”
He pulled back and cocked his head at her. “Joyce, you know my name. Did a painting fall on your head today or something?”
Joyce laughed. “Not ‘Spike’. What’s your real name?”
Spike sighed. “William. William Edwards Junior.” This must be flashback day. “I was.. a poet. Sort of.”
Joyce smiled and hugged him again. “Does Buffy know that?”
“My name, or the other thing?”
Spike sighed and shook his head. “Name, yes. First only. As for the rest, no. In fact, you’re the first person that I’ve told in.. well, ever.”
Joyce smiled. “Well then, I suppose you had a reason.”
Spike smiled and shook his head. “Yeah. Although I don’t know what it was.”
Joyce stood up, taking their plates to the kitchen. “Well, I’m sure you’ll figure this out.”
Deep sigh. “I wish I was so sure.” But he had figured something out. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have to go to the drastic measures that their conversation had brought to his mind. It would all depend on what Buffy said when she got home.