Buffy walked through the cemetery, gazing at the headstones, almost resentfully. *They* got to resume their slumber. *They* got their lasting peace. Their happiness. Their end. No fear, no doubt… But it all came crashing back when they tore her out. Heaven. And she gets thrown back into hell. She absently staked a vampire fledgling. Tilted her head to the side as he particle-ized, his dust finally disappearing into the ground. Even he got his peace. He got to quit. While she… she was here. And having to smile all the time. Come everyone! Look at the spectacle! Slayer: Risen twice, smiling, perfectly adjusted to her new, dark, dank habitat. Sunnydale. Amidst friends who she almost couldn’t stand to look at. She was here. She was here all time now. Maybe because it was where she felt the least dead. Where she didn’t have to pretend to be alive. She could just be what she was: lost. She stood in front of the crypt door, never knocking. Just stared at the door, arms lax at her sides, head almost tilted at an angle.
The door opened, and Spike nearly walked right into her. Started for an instant. “Slayer. Hey.”
Looked at him with that hauntingly empty stare that the others failed to see on a daily basis. “Hi.”
Wherever he’d been going, whatever he’d been going to do, he forgot about it. Backed into the crypt, held the door open. “Want to come in?”
She walked in, hands folded neatly over her chest, so much like she had been lying in a casket. Stopped in the middle of the floor.
He shut the door, and stood there. It was about a week since he’d seen her last. When she’d left, he thought that she’d been doing better. Apparently the world had gotten her again. He growled softly to himself. Damn the stupid Scoobies. Couldn’t they see that this was slowly killing her? Eating her alive? He sighed. Blind humans. “Can I help you with anything, luv?”
Her head jerked to the side, like she was seeing him for the first time that night. Actually focusing on him. Shrugged. “Just…” Another shrug.
He moved around the perimeter of the crypt. Find something to do. Something for her to do. Began to head for the ladder.
A nervous intake of breath, almost panicked, “Where are you going?”
Oh. Right. She didn’t want to be alone. Offered a little grin. “I was going downstairs, luv. You remember. You were down there last time you were here. I was going to try and find something for us to do.”
She took a hesitant step forward. “Can I.. come?”
Shrug. Didn’t know *why* she felt she needed permission. “Sure.” Backed up. “Ladies first.” Gestured toward the unornimental hole in the floor.
She made her way to the lower level, waiting for him to come down.
He hopped through the hole, ignoring the ladder. Went over to the chest at the end of the bed and knelt down in front of it, rummaging through it.
She sat at the very corner of his bed, watching him. She was collapsing, and she knew it. They placed too much on her, too soon. Did she mention the killing Dawn part?
There were some boxes in the bottom of the chest. With a “What the bloody…” He pulled them out. Games. Board games. Mousetrap. Hungry Hungry Hippos. And Operation. Where had those come from? Must’ve been Harmony’s. Started to put them back.
“Operation.” There was a small smile in her voice.
He glanced up at her. Held up the box. The things he would do for this girl. The list was endless. “Want to play, luv?”
She shrugged. “I just remember playing it when I was little.”
He opened the box. A human form, with holes. Ok.. They wanted *kids* to play this? “Looks like a bloody autops-” *BZZZZZZTTT!!!* “AAAHH!” Dropped the thing, and Charlie Horse popped out of the thing’s ‘thigh’. “Bloody hell! The thing BIT me!”
Buffy let out a small giggle. The barest hint of a laugh. But it was there. Along with that ‘almost’ nose crunch of hers.
He gave her a look. Stuck his zapped finger in his mouth and set about picking up Charlie Horse. “Guess we don’t have to wonder whether or not the batteries work,” he muttered.
She looked more aware as she spoke, coming out of the shell she reverted too when things just caved on top of her. “That’s what happened to me the first time. I was little and I just reached in to grab the heart.”
He chucked as he replaced the pieces and set the ‘body’ on the bed, sitting next to it. “And you wondered if you were destined to be the Slayer. Already going for the heart.”
He grinned. Progress. Cocked his head at the ‘body’. “So. How do you play this?”
“You pick up the tweezer things, and try to get the organs out without getting zapped. And then, when you’re done, you have to get them back in.”
Cocked his head. “You take them out, then put them back? Why not just leave them there and let it alone?”
Gave him a look. “Gee, what a fun game. Stare at the body on table.”
Snorted. “Gee. Where have I been involved in something like that?” Picked up the tweezers and handed them to her. “I’ve been zapped once. Your turn.”
She titled her head, and with careful, deliberate precision, extracted the femur. Dropped it to the side. Handed the tweezers to Spike.
Oh sure. She makes it look easy. Well, if she could do it then so could he. Reached for the ‘water on the knee’, which was a bucket in a hole in the approximate place that the knee was on the ‘body’. Simple enough. Just grab, pull and- *BZZZZT!!* “Ow! Bloody stupid..” Growled.
She gave a small smile, stole the tweezers back. Reached for the funny bone, and got zapped for her trouble. She looked at it. It ZAPPED her??
Spike chuckled. “See? It gets you, too.” Evil grin, signifying the approaching bad pun. “Guess that’s why it’s called a funny bone, eh?”
She groaned appropriately. “Just go.”
Ah. Got the Adam’s Apple. No zap. Looked proud of himself.
She was coming out of her fog. There was a fight to be won. She plucked the heart. Smirked.
Bread Basket. Cocked his head at the piece. “Did this guy swallow this thing, or what?” Pulled it out. Returned her smirk, with a raised eyebrow for added effect.
She gave a concentrating pout. Pulled out the hammer. Made a face. Haha.
Growled. Extracted Charlie Horse. And, even though he knew that it was extremely childish, he stuck his tongue out at her.
She poked him in the nose, then reclaimed the tweezers. She pulled out the spare rib, tilted her face to side, and said. Quote. “Nyah.”
He gave her ‘Serious Face’. For about two seconds. Then chuckled. “Mature, luv. Really mature.”
“Just like the tongue?”
Opened mouth. Closed it. Growl. Focused on the ‘body’. Ah. Hmm. Why had she been avoiding the curly thing… Hose. It was a hose. Shrugged, and went after it. Got zapped. “Ow.” Monotone.
She took the tweezers, went after the same thing. Took a good minute of careful contorting, but she finally got it out.
And that was the last piece. “So, what? You win?”
A laugh rolled through her. It felt good. Whenever she forgot what good felt like, Spike let her know. “I think so.”
Snorted, started putting the pieces back. “Make a game out of a bleedin’ autopsy. What’ll humans think of next?”
“‘How to Bring Your Friend Back from the Dead’ by Milton Bradley?”
He froze and looked at her. Searched her face for the pain he expected to see. “They didn’t know,” he said quietly.
Her eyes raced to the bedspread. Couldn’t look at him with that sympathy, and understanding in his eyes. “Doesn’t make it any easier.”
He nodded. “I would imagine.” Went back to gathering up the pieces and putting the ‘body’ back in the box.
She helped, placing things in their proper containers. “Sorry. I did have some fun.”
He smiled at her. “S’what I’m here for, luv.”
He lay on his stomach, the better to put the box back in the chest without getting up. “Maybe there’s something else in here.”
“Were they Harmony’s?”
“Some of ’em. The games, at least. I thought I got rid of all her junk.”
She nodded. “Every girl’s got at least one of them. I kept Pretty Pretty Princess.”
Half shudder. “Do NOT mention that… that.. living hell of a game, please. Between that and Twenty Questions, it’s a bloody wonder that I’m not insane.” Paused, when he realized what he’d just admitted to doing. “Bloody hell.”
She sat up, pouncing on the information. “Did you ever get the black ring, Spike?”
He growled in response, and went back to fishing through the chest. Subject closed, as far as he was concerned.
Another full laugh. “Did you wear the jewelry or just collect it?”
“I’m not talking about this. It’s a traumatic memory.”
“Awww….was Spikey the Pwincess of the Pink Wealm?”
“Shut it, Slayer.”
But it’s just too good. “C’mon. I promise not to tell anyone. But Xander.”
Looked back at her over his shoulder. “I’d tell you. But then I’d have to kill you.” Back to the chest. Ow. Sewing needle. Where in the world had THAT come from?
“You did. You wore the crown.” She did a Princess Wave.
Growling snort. “I did not.” Quieter. “It’s called a tiara.”
Buffy’s eyes rounded.
“And that is my last word on the matter.” Rolled over, and sat on the side of the bed, sulking.
She sat beside him. “I promise to not tell anyone.”
He sighed. “Harm was good for making me feel better, sometimes. But it only worked if she was in a good mood. Which meant me having to do stupid things. Like wear that freakin’ tiara. And yes. I did get the black ring. Twice.”
She smiled, tilted her head to the side, just grazing his shoulder. “And you had to get zapped.”
He snorted. “I’d never played that before. Been zapped by it, yes. Actually played it, no.”
“How zapped and not played?”
Sighed again. “She used the bloody thing to wake me up. I’d be sleepin’, perfectly happy. She touch that stupid zapper to my foot, or stomach, and nearly make me jump out of my skin.”
Small laugh. “Have to say, never pictured Harm as the S&M type.”
“She wasn’t. Just the annoying type.”
“Mmm.” She got up, knelt at the trunk, and made to dig. “What else do you have in here?”
He got up, pulled her back from it, and closed it. “Personal stuff.”
She pouted, looking longingly at the trunk. “What kinda stuff?”
Sat on it. “The ‘personal’ kind.”
“Like…. whips and chains kind, or… memory kind?”
He chuckled. “Little of both.” He couldn’t take that pout. Stood up. “Take a look, if you must.”
Shook her head. “Hated Dru, and… the chains?” Put her hands up. “Not my business.”
He cocked his head at her. “Nothing in there about Dru, luv. And no chains. A dog collar is as close as you’ll get. The stuff in there is older.”
She stood, brushed him off it, and opened it, digging through it. She paused, her head tilted to the side, her fingers brushing something in the box carefully.
He sat near her, slightly worried. What was she focusing on? He began going over a mental list of everything in that chest. Nothing bad came to mind. “What have you found, luv?”
In an almost awed voice she said, “She’s so tiny, all wrapped in white in her bassinet.”
He cocked his head. Went through the mental list again. “Pull it out, luv. You can explore.”
She pulled the picture out of the trunk, turned it over. “Evaline Grace.” She made a tiny frown. “She’s so little. Was she a pre-mie?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Unfortunately for her, incubators hadn’t been invented yet.” Pointed at the dates on the photo. “Date of birth.” Choked up slightly, almost unnoticeable. “Date of death. Three weeks old.”
“Oh no. I’m… so sorry.”
He gave a shrug. “Long time ago, luv.” Half smile. “Besides. You know better than anyone where she probably is now.”
Buffy nodded. “I’m very sure she’s happier than a lot of people.”
Oops. He did it again. “Bugger,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean to bring that up. I’m sorry. I was trying to.. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Shook his head. “I want to help. But I can’t do anything.” Quieter. “Not like I’m all that good at helping, in the first place.”
She shrugged. “I’m never going to forget. I mean… how do you? But…” Her head tilted to look at the floor. “It’s helped me a lot to talk to you. Or… not talk to you. To be able to just be here.”
He gave a half grin. “Whatever I can do, luv. You’ve got my full cooperation.”
She gave him a little smile and kept digging in the trunk.
He leaned sideways, resting his weight on his elbow so that he could see what she was doing. Gave a half chuckle. “Bet you’ve never let anyone look in your stuff.”
She grinned. “Why should I? It’s mine.”
He chuckled. “Well, that stuff’s mine. And I’m lettin’ you look.”
Kept rooting, never looked up. “I never stole anyone’s panties, either.”
He just snickered quietly. “I recommend that you don’t dig too deep in there, then.”
She just leveled a look at him and kept digging. Held up a journal. “William Michael Winters, II.”
He snatched at it. “Give me that.”
She pulled it back. “No. You said I could look.”
Damn it. Him and his big mouth. “Well.. I said you could look in the trunk. I didn’t say that you could look at that, specifically. It’s private.”
Pretended to leaf through it. “Journal, today I shoved an old lady with a cane. What can I say? I’ve always been bad.”
He snorted. “That is not in there, Slayer. Gimme.”
She arched a brow at him. “What are you hiding, William Michael Winters the second?”
Growled. “My *name* is *Spike*, Buffy *Anne* Summers. It’s private. You wouldn’t want me reading your diary, now would you?”
Why in God’s name was a blush staining her cheeks now? “You wouldn’t.”
“I would. If you don’t give me my journal back. I don’t even know which volume that is.”
Eyes got wider. “What… volume?” She set that one down to dig again, coming back up with four more in her arms. Different names on every journal. “William Jared Christopher. William Donovan Fayette. William Elton James.” She gave him a bewildered look. “Wil’am Raye Canot? Schitzo, much?”
He sighed. “I’ve moved around a lot. Changed middle and last names for whatever country I happened to be in. Helped keep the vamp hunters from trackin’ me down. Besides, it confused Dru. Kept her from asking what was in ’em.”
She spread the five journals in front of him. “Which is real?”
Shrugged. “They all are. Oh. You mean the name, don’t you?”
Pulled the first one that she’d had and held it up. “This one’s from when I was human. Volume one.” Chuckled. “Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Pointed at himself. “Vampire.” At her. “Slayer.” Himself again. “Winters.” Her. “Summers. We’re total opposites.”
“You betcha.” Why did it feel like they were both lying? Oh well.
Sighed, opening the journal in his hand and leafing through it. “I don’t even know why I kept this. I can’t write worth crap.”
Buffy shrugged. “Not about being good or not. It’s just… a way to remember, to work through stuff.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I guess.” Stopped at a page at the very back of the book. Growled, and closed it. Moved to put them back in the trunk.
She slipped it from his hands. “What?” Started leafing through it to the back.
Snatched it back. “Bad day. Bad memory. Give it back.”
Pulled it back. “And you stopped writing there?”
Growled, then sighed. “I stopped being that person that night, Slayer. Stopped being a person period.”
Softly, “Oh.” Then, “The tone of everything changes, huh? Different intonations, different humor, different sarcasm. Different goals, different fun.”
Shrugged. “Not everything changes. I mean, the majority of stuff does, but not everything.” Reached into the trunk and pulled out yet another journal. With the same name as the first one. “This is the next year. In private, not much changed. In public, everything did.”
She gestured to the other journals. “But as time wears on, you changed. It’s inevitable.” With her it had been the opposite. In public, everything was the same, in private, everything had changed.
He nodded. “Yeah. But, if this is where I’m going to wind up, I think all the pain was worth it. And I don’t just mean physical pain. Although my bloody turning hurt like hell.”
Snort. “Should it have felt nice?” She had been sampled twice. One had almost killed her, the other was intoxicating, and sweet like wine.
He shrugged. “To hear Angelus talk about it, yeah. He spoke about his turning by Darla like most people might describe an orgasm.”
“It probably was. He loved pain.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I got that. With me, I was going ‘ow ow’ until I passed out.”
She thought about her own. When Angel had almost drained her. That had hurt, with a sweet undertone. With Dracula… Still a pleasurable shiver racked her.
He cocked his head. “You cold?”
Buffy blushed. “No. Just… thinking.”
He shrugged, then went back to organizing his journals and putting them back in the trunk.
“Were you ever bit after you got turned?”
He closed the trunk. Sat up. Nodded. “Yeah. Dru did it several times. Still hurt. But I let her.”
“Hmm. It never hurt me with Dracula. Angel… it.. it did, but… only because he was feeding, and he needed blood.” Why was she defending him still?
A soft growl rumbled from the vampire before he could check it.
She chose to ignore it. “With Dracula…. it was… smooth, and wonderful. Why did it feel so good?”
“You were in a thrall. Couldn’t feel the pain.” Shrugged. “You felt what Drac wanted you to.”
“Can all vampire’s do it?”
Nodded. “Yeah. All master vamps can.”
Shrugged and nodded. “Yeah. It’s nothing, really.”
“Why would you do a thrall?”
“Actually, I never have. I can, just don’t. What’s sporting about that?”
“No.. I mean…. Why would you do it? Why would you care what the other person feels?”
He cocked his head. “I guess if I was curious, or something. Or if the person was really fighting. Dru used it to get people to tell her things.”
Spike shrugged. “Well, she put Rupert into one, when she wanted info about Acathla. I tried to stop her, though.”
“But why make it feel good? Why not make it feel like nothing?”
“Good feelings make people more cooperative.”
“Hmm. But why would I need to be cooperative?” She hoped she wasn’t pestering him.
He chuckled. “You’re the Slayer. You wouldn’t just.. let Drac bite you.”
“Why didn’t he kill me?”
He shook his head. “He didn’t want to kill you. Well, he did. But not really. He wanted to sire you, Slayer.”
The slight panic raised her blood pressure, but she listened to her heartbeat reassuringly. “Why didn’t he?”
“I assumed that he was interrupted.” Cocked his head. “Or.. Maybe he wanted you to *want* it. To come for him and ask for it.”
She hung her head. “He did. Want me to want it.”
He shrugged. “Well then. That’s your answer.”
She nodded. “I guess so.”
And that subject ended. He sat there for a minute. “What do you want to do now?”
She gave a small laugh. “I don’t know.” Glanced over his journals. “Read all of these. In succession.”
Closed the chest. “No you don’t.”
“Yup. But, at the risk of my own diary, I won’t.”
He chuckled. “Thank you.”
“You wouldn’t really read it.”
“Would too. If you read mine.”
“You don’t even know where it is.” So very self-assured.
He grinned. “Are you *so* sure about that?”
“Yes,” she stammered.
Spike gave a totally smug grin. A grin that said clearly, ‘I not only know exactly where it is, I’ve seen it before.’
“Fine, Oh Mighty One. Where is it?”
Chuckled. “Depends on the day of the week.” Counted on fingers. “Monday: In the hidden compartment in your box springs. Tuesday: The hollow copy of Romeo And Juliet in your book case. Wednesday-”
She was fish-mouthing.
Still, he continued. “In the false bottomed chest in your closet. Thursday: The fake part of your windowsill. Friday: Under five packages of tissue paper in your nightstand. Saturday-”
“Skip to Sunday. Where is it Sunday?” The most holy of her hiding places. If he knew this, he knew all.
Grin. “Oh, that’s my favorite. You pull up the carpeting on the third stair from the top, and then the board easily moves, revealing a perfectly book-sized hiding place.”
“How many pages?”
“Total in the book? Or average per entry?”
Tilts her head. “Both.”
Smiled. “No clue. I’ve never opened it.”
The tension left her as a chuckle passed her lips. “I need to believe you.”
He smiled again. “I couldn’t do that to you, luv. I know personally how personal and important a diary or journal is. I’d never read it.” Smirk. “Do like the little piggies on the cover, though.”
Justified smack to the shoulder for that one. “You leave the pigs out of this.”
He chuckled. “Hey. Touchy, eh? Guess you’d be protective of that little stuffed one that sits on your bed, too.”
“You’re lucky Mr. Gordo never went missing.”
He shrugged. “I just sniffed him a few times.”
“He’s a piggy, Spike. Not underwear.”
He chuckled again. “I know. You sleep with him, don’t you? That’s why your scent is all over him.”
Very defensive, “I used to when I was little.”
Snorted. “Twenty is little?”
She hit him again. “Shut up.”
Chuckled. “One time, I was sitting in the tree outside, debating whether I wanted to knock on the window and wake you up. And you rolled over, and were clutching the little guy to your chest. And I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”
“See? That’s private. I should get to read the journal.”
“I let you look in my trunk. That’s enough.”
“All right. For now.”
A satisfied nod. “Good.” Cocked his head. “What do you want to do, then?”
She laid sideways on his bed, stretched out, her feet hanging off one side, her head and arms hanging off the other. “Not go home.”
He chuckled. “Fine with me. I get company.”
“Hmmm….” Her eyes closed. “I like this comforter. Mine doesn’t let me sleep.”
“Does it talk in your ear?”
Half smile. “It must. Never sleep.”
He smiled at her. “You can take a nap, if you want. I can be quiet.”
Her eyes were already drooping. She reached for one of his pillows, cuddled it to her chest. “Mmm-kay.”
He pulled a chair over and sat next to the bed. Closed his eyes.
A couple of hours later, Buffy stirred, stretching, pushing the pillow away slightly. “Mmmm…”
From the chair near the bed, Spike made a tiny, almost imperceptible snore. Probably because he almost wasn’t breathing.
She sat up slowly, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. It was the best she had slept since she got back. No coffin. No torn up and bleeding hands, no waking after fifteen minutes, heart slamming and sweat-soaked. She looked at Spike and smiled.
He shifted a little in his sleep, muttering something unintelligible. Snorted. Snored again, settling down.
She wanted to pout. Wanted company. He needed to wake up. “Spike,” she whispered.
No response, except for a momentary wrinkling of his nose.
“C’mon… wake up.”
She backed off a moment. Then narrowed her eyes. She SAID wake up! She poked his side. “Wake up.”
Snort, growl. One eye open for a moment. “Sleepin’.”
“No. Wakey.” Poked his side again.
‘Grrr’ed, again, curled up in the chair. “Stipit.” Apparently that’s what happens when you try to say ‘stop it’ really fast.
Her finger jabbed lightly at his stomach. “Spike..”
Snort. Eye opened again. “Slayer.”
Put one hand on her hip. “You were expecting Harmony?”
Chuckled. “No. I was expectin’ you to have left while I was sleepin’. Not done playing yet, huh?”
Shook her head. “I want your bed.”
He bit his lip. A futile attempt to fight back laughter.
“You want…” Snicker. “My..” Snort. “Bed, Slayer…”
She pouted. “Yes! It’s nice. Reallllllly realllllllly nice….” Added moan for effect.
He struggled for composure. “I know.. Buffy.. luv.. Listen to yourself… And think like me..”
She sighed disgustedly. “Pervert. The bed. Mattress. Comforter. Pillows. No people in the bed.”
He nodded. “I know. Just..” Snickered again.
Rolled her eyes. “Are we done reverting to seventh grade?”
He cocked his head at her. “You have a better idea?”
“Dunno. But I hated seventh grade.”
He chuckled. “Fine.” Cleared his throat, shifted position, and sat up straight, hands folded. Like a little boy in church. A ‘I’m totally innocent of all wrongs’ look on his face.
“Like that look even worked at mass.” Snort.
He just smiled at her. “You’d be surprised.”
“Right. No one’s that stupid.”
Soft chuckle. “Nanny Grant fell for it every time.”
Smiled. “My.. live-in babysitter, I guess you’d say. Imagine a cross between Rupert and your mum, about the age of your grandmum. She watched me from when I was a baby, till I turned twelve. She died that year.”
“Aww. That’s sad.”
He shrugged. “Long time ago, luv.” Got up and went to the trunk again. Began fishing. “I’ve got a picture in here, somewhere..”
She knelt beside him, doing her own digging.
“Ah.” Pulled out an old black and white photo, yellowed with age. “That’s Nanny Grant. And me. I was.. seven? I think.”
She gave a small laugh, pointed at the picture. “I’m sure your mom was thrilled. Your hair is all mussed.”
He chuckled. “No it isn’t. That’s the way it always was.”
“Then your hair was always messy.”
He snorted at her. “Curly. Not messy.” Chuckled. “But, I remember that day. It probably was messed up.”
Sat on the bed, holding the picture. “I didn’t want to have my picture taken. Nanny Grant promised to play with me if I did. But I still didn’t want to. To tell you the truth, I was a little scared of the camera. It was loud, and flashed really bright. Scary for a seven year old. But, Nanny Grant convinced me.”
“How’d she do that?” Captivated by the tale of a seven-year-old Spike.
Shook his head. Chuckled. “Had her ways. I was seven, remember?” Smiled. “Give a kid some candy, especially if his parents don’t know about it, promise to play later, and he’ll do anything.”
“Candy and playtime? You were an easy kid.”
He chuckled. “Yeah. Helped that I loved Nanny Grant. Didn’t want her disappointed in me.” Quietly, embarrassed. “I did wind up breaking down in tears right after the flash went off. Bloody thing was so freakin’ loud. Hurt my ears.”
A laughing, “Awwww. Did she play with you?”
He gave a half growl. “It’s not funny. And yes.”
“Never said it was. It’s just so cute to think about.”
Snort. “Not cute. At the time, that camera was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.”
“No… just this scrawny little seven year old, it’s just cute.”
Indignant snort. “I was not scrawny.”
Buffy arched her eyebrow, tapped the picture gently.
Went to put it back in the chest. “Ok. I’ve got another one in here. Somewhere.”
“Me and Nanny Grant. I have about five. The one I’m looking for is from when I was six.” Glanced up. “Ever had someone sneak up on you with a camera? Catch you the moment before you know they’re there?”
Understanding groan and eye-roll. “Those all come out wrong.”
He chuckled. “Yeah. But this one caught me having fun.” Pulled another yellowed photo out. “Ah. Here it is.” The picture was of a slightly smaller William, struggling against Nanny Grant’s clutches, mouth wide open, eyes closed, obviously laughing hard as his Nanny tickled his ribs and armpits.
Almost cooed. “Look at you. So cute and sweet.” She pulled a British accent. “I’ve always been bad…”
He growled at her. “I meant the vampire version, Slayer. No kid is bad. Not that young, anyway.”
“Especially not this one playing with his Nanny.”
He looked at the photo, a smile made it’s way to the surface. “Yeah.”
Grinned. “Baby Spike was ticklish, huh?”
Nodded, with a chuckle. “Yep. Horribly.”
Grin turned slightly evil. “Is Big Spike?”
He moved backwards. “No.”
“No?” Grabbed at his sides. “So this doesn’t tickle?”
A loud snort of laughter, quickly suppressed. “No…” The word was choked out. Struggled against her, snorting out laughter.
“Uh-huh. So you don’t mind.” Kept tickling.
He couldn’t hold it, started laughing harder, trying to squirm away from her. “Quit it!”
“Mm… Lying isn’t nice Spike..” Tickled at his armpits, same as Nanny Grant in the picture.
“Sorry!” Shouted amongst giggles. “Okay!? I am! I am!”
“You are what?” Fingers dug gently into his ribs.
After a final quick tickle, she stopped. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
He was panting. “Bloody.. hell…”
She was smiling down on him cheerily.
He chuckled. “Don’t ever, and I mean *EVER* do that again, Slayer.”
“Oooooh. Right. Gimme a minute, I’m working up to quaking in my boots. My very fashionable boots.”
Snorted at her, then grinned, the tickling induced endorphins winning the fight. “That they are.”
She pointed a toe, took in the tan suede boots. Turned her foot this way and that. “Yeah… They really are.”
He laughed, and moved up to sit near the pillows, picking up his picture on the way. “You feeling better, Slayer?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
Nodded. “Good. Cause I’d hate to think that I’ve allowed myself to be shocked by that stupid game, embarrassed by my past, and nearly tickled to death by you, and it didn’t help.” Exaggerated shake of his head. “The things I do for you.”
Appreciative laugh. “Yeah… I’ll bring the black ring next time.”
He growled at her, but it wasn’t very threatening, since he was grinning at the same time.
She sighed, knew the sun would rise soon. “Well… off to the real world?”
He nodded. “I guess that’s where you go.” Decided to offer. “You can stay, though. Or come back. If you need someone to talk to.”
She had been biting her lip anxiously the whole time, but a corner of her mouth quirked up as he finished. “I will… Um… You could stop by, if you want, and see Dawn.”
Big grin. “You want me to?”
“She’d like that.”
“I’ll stop by, then. But.”
Her eyes got that ‘scared-doe’ look again. “But what?”
Shook his finger in her face, playfully. “If you tell her one thing, and by that I mean ANYTHING you’ve learned today, I will hurt you.”
She grinned. “I promise, William Michael Winters, the second.”
He groaned. “Including that.”