SUMMARY:  My own wishful thinking about what might happen between Sleeper and Never Leave Me.

RATING:  PG, I guess.  There are allusions to unpleasantness on the show, but no badness or foul language in the fic itself.

DISCLAIMER:  You know the drill.  I don't own them; they belong to Joss, Marti and all their ilk.  I'm just borrowing them for my own amusement, and will return them in mint condition when I'm done.

A/N:  I do all my own editing, so if there are mistakes, they are completely my fault.  I just had to get this out before Never Leave Me airs and I get completely Jossed.  :)


Buffy sighed and stood up wearily.

"Okay, it's late.  I think we should all get some rest and come at this fresh tomorrow." She ushered Anya and a very reluctant Xander out the door.

"I still don't like this," he muttered, but knew better than to tangle with a tired and determined Slayer.

"I know," she replied fondly.  "It'll be fine.  I promise."  They shared a brief moment of camaraderie before Xander nodded in resignation.

"G'night, Buff."

"Night, Xander."  She closed the door softly and let out a yawn, then turned and shambled back into the living room.  The three remaining occupants all looked about ready to topple over.  Commander!Buffy decided her work here was not quite done.

"Dawn, Will," each looked up in turn, "why don't you guys go get ready for bed.  I'll be up once I get Spike settled in."  Dawn never got the chance to voice her protest as her older sister cut her off.  "We'll talk about everything tomorrow.  Right now we all need sleep."

Realizing that the Slayer was right, the brunette and the redhead rose and ambled toward the stairs, stopping for Buffyhugs on their way.  As they clomped up to their beds, Buffy walked in what she hoped was a reassuring manner toward the vampire hunched in a blanket at the back of the room. 

He turned his head to watch her approach, his deep blue eyes full of sorrow, confusion, and most of all fear.  Buffy had often seen Spike look impish or pouty, but never in the five years she'd known him had she ever seen him look so much like a lost little boy as he did at that moment.  If not for fear of scaring him even more she might have reached out to stroke his hair and murmur soothing nonsense in his ear.  Instead, she did the next best thing she could think of.

"Hey," she offered with a cautious smile. Spike blinked and relaxed a tiny bit, which Buffy took as a good sign.

"You want the bed or the cot?"  This earned her a big change in expression – to one mostly of bewilderment.  Buffy almost laughed at this new, silent Spike.

"I said I wasn't letting you out of my sight, and I meant it.  You're staying in my room tonight – oh, Mom's old room.  I moved over the summer.  So anyway, do you want the bed or the cot, 'cause I'll take whichever one you don't."

Spike was too traumatized and confused by the evening's events to argue.  And in truth he didn't want to leave Buffy, but he didn't quite trust himself around her either.

"Sofa?" he offered timidly.  Buffy smiled.

"Huh uh.  Sorry.  You're sleepin' upstairs where I can keep an eye on ya.  Bed or cot, you decide."  She waited patiently while he tried to come up with another solution, but apparently Spike's higher brain functions had shut down for the night.  Finally, he heaved the tiniest sigh.

"Wouldn't be right to take your bed," he grumbled.

"Okay then," Buffy acquiesced.  She'd kind of hoped he would take the bed – he was in pretty rough shape – but it really hadn't seemed likely.  "Let's get you upstairs."

With careful coaxing she managed to get the vampire out of his chair, up to the second floor and down the hall to the master bedroom.  He stood huddled in the corner by the door while Buffy pulled the folding cot out of the closet and set it up along the foot of the bed.  A quick check of the windows ensured that no errant rays of sunlight would get in come morning.  After all, it's just plain rude to let your houseguest be woken up by his own spontaneous immolation.  Turning her full attention back to said houseguest, she beckoned him towards his bed.

"C'mon," she urged, sensing his hesitation.  "It's okay."  Spike edged forward until he stood before her.  "That's it.  Now sit down."  He did  "Good." 

Buffy leaned over him to remove his jacket, which she tossed onto a plush chair.  With a soft smile she knelt at his feet and began untying his left boot.  Eager to please and remembering that bit about 'those who help themselves', Spike started in on the laces of his right.  When his boots were off – with socks tucked inside – Buffy reached for his belt.  He pushed back into the thin mattress, wild-eyed and slack-jawed with fear.  Instinctively snatching her hands back, she quickly realized what he must still associate with that action.

"Oh.  No, Spike," she hurriedly explained.  "I- I just thought you'd be uncomfortable sleeping with your belt on."  He let out a breath neither had known he was holding, visibly calming himself.  His eyes darted about, looking at anything but her.  He was obviously embarrassed.  "D'you wanna do it yourself?"  He nodded gratefully and set about doing so.  Buffy gently pulled the supple leather from his shaking hands, coiled it, and set it beside his boots.

Turning back to him, she caught his gaze and gave him a reassuring smile.  With one hand on his shoulder, she eased him down until he was lying on his side. His head landed on a pillow – hers, by the smell of it.  She lifted his feet and tucked them under the covers that she then pulled over him.  All the while, Spike continued to stare at her with those wide blue eyes so full of despair.

In unconscious imitation of her mother, Buffy reached out a hand and brushed soothing fingertips lightly over his brow and temple.  At first Spike flinched, but soon he leaned into her touch and closed his eyes.  Tears began to run down his cheeks and over is nose.  He made no sound.  After a while the tears stopped, and the slightest change in the feel of him told her that Spike had fallen asleep.

Retrieving her pajamas from the bed, Buffy slipped into the bathroom and quickly readied herself for slumber, as well.  As she was just about to crawl into bed, the softest sigh, almost a whimper, drew her back to the cot.  Spike was still asleep on his side, but he had curled himself up as small as he could get, and the grimace on his face was enough to tell her that he was having quite a nightmare.  Buffy lowered herself to her knees and sat back on her heels.  Once again she found herself offering tactile comfort to her former-enemy-come-former-lover.

"Shh," she crooned, cupping Spike's jaw and running her thumb over his pronounced cheekbone.  "I'm here.  You're safe.  Nothing's gonna hurt you here."

Spike calmed almost immediately, Buffy's voice and gentle touch covering him like a second blanket.  After watching him a while to be sure the dreams didn't start up again, she rose, padded back to her own bed, and slid between the sheets.  Her contented sigh turned into a gaping yawn, forcing her to realize just how long the day had been.  Within moments she was drifting off to sleep.

*          *          *

Buffy was startled awake by the creaky floorboard just inside her bedroom door.  Some of the tension drained from her body as she remembered that there was supposed to be someone else in her room, and that he was in pretty bad shape.  In the darkness, she could just pick out one shadow among the others.

"Spike, you okay?"  He seemed upset, but whether it was from bad dreams or because he got caught sneaking out Buffy couldn't tell.  The quiet, shaky 'mm-hm' he gave in reply didn't really shed any light on the situation.

"Where're ya goin'?"  She sensed rather than saw his shrug.


"Bad dream?"


"C'mere," she offered, patting the bed.  He shook his head vigorously, almost spastically, trying to back away but coming up short against the closet door.

"No."  He sounded as though sharing her bed was the most horrible thing she could have suggested, rather than his single-minded goal for over a year.  It still surprised her just how much Spike had been affected by their encounter in the bathroom.

"Spike, come here," she insisted gently.  He continued shaking his head and cringing against the closet.  With a sad sigh, Buffy pushed herself out of bed and walked slowly toward the panicky vampire.  She wrapped her hands around his and look directly into his eyes.

"It's okay," she assured him.   "We're both fully clothed, and you can sleep on top of the sheet if you want.  Okay?"  Spike nodded reluctantly.  "Okay.  Come on."  Buffy backed toward the bed, pulling him by his trembling hands and cooing words of reassurance.  Once she got him settled between the top sheet and the comforter, she walked around the foot of the bed – climbing over would probably set him off again – and settled into the warm spot she'd created over the last few hours.

Buffy lay on her side looking at Spike, who was lying very stiffly on his back with his arms at his sides and staring intently at the ceiling.  He obviously wouldn't be getting back to sleep anytime soon.

"D'you wanna talk about it?"

"No," he whispered.  Silence hung between them while Buffy struggled to find a new topic of conversation.  At last she resigned herself to the fact that it was the middle of the night, and intellectual discussion wasn't her forte even after a full night's sleep.  So she just said what was long overdue.

"We missed you, y'know."

Spike, startled by this revelation, snapped his head to the side.  His gaze bored into her, a minute glimmer  of hope searching for the truth in her words.  Buffy's lips curved up at the corners, embarrassed by her own candor but trying to be reassuring.

"It's true."  Buffy's eyes, sparkling even in the darkness, never wavered.  The naked longing that appeared on Spike's face was all the proof she needed to know that, if possible, he had missed them more.  After a moment, the tension grew too great.  The top edge of the covers seemed to take on a new fascination for Buffy as she plowed on.

"No one really said anything, except maybe Dawn, but there were times on patrol when I'd think 'Spike woulda loved that fight.'  O- or sometimes we'd be watching TV, Dawnie and me, and I'd think 'Only Dawn would think that's funny', but then I'd realize that you probably would, too.  And I don't think he'd admit it under pain of death, but I'm pretty sure Xander missed having another guy in the group."  They both scoffed a bit at that.  "I mean," she continued, "he's probably got months worth of carefully crafted insults and one-liners stored up, 'cause he won't use 'em on us girls."

Throughout Buffy's ramblings, the vampire had simply watched her, blinking every now and then out of habit.  The idea that the Scoobies had felt the lack of his presence and not done a collective Dance of Joy was surprising to say the least.  Buffy's warm, earnest expression even allowed him to hope that it might be real, that she and the Scoobies had actually missed him.  Tentatively, Spike returned Buffy's smile until a huge yawn overtook her.

"Sorry," she mumbled.  Spike shook his head.

"Nothin' to be sorry for.  'S my fault you're awake.  Sleep."  Buffy gave him a fond smile.

"You, too."

Vampire and Slayer closed their eyes and took each other's advice.

*          *          *

Too alert to stay under for long, Buffy drifted back to consciousness as the rising sun began to lighten the windows.  Blinking the world into focus, she found that her line of sight contained nothing but the corner of her pillow and Spike, who didn't seem to have moved at all.  She took in his eyes darting about beneath his eyelids and the fact that he was breathing, quick and shallow as it was.  He was dreaming again.

Spike's face took on a pained expression, and a tiny strangled moan escaped his throat.  Whatever was going on in his mind, it wasn't pleasant.  Pushing aside her internal debate, Buffy shifted herself up and closer to the middle of the bed.  She reached out to lay her hand on his chest.  Spike quieted a little.  Buffy slid her hand out to cup his far shoulder and pulled lightly.  He rolled eagerly into her embrace, nuzzling into her neck and slipping an arm around her waist.  His breath tickled her collarbone as he let out a contented sigh.  Buffy stroked Spike's crisp, gelled hair and the long lines of his back, taking comfort in the feel of him as he did from her… as neither would have allowed if they'd both been  awake.  She let her mind drift, concentrating on nothing but the sensation of being held.  It was something she hadn't had in a very long time, and she'd missed it much more than she wanted to admit.  She was still floating in a warm, fuzzy haze when Dawn burst through the door, obviously agitated.

"Buffy, Spike's-"  The younger Summers halted abruptly as she saw the object of her concern in her big sister's arms.  Amazingly, the outburst hadn't woken him.  "Right here," she concluded, confused and disgruntled at the strange turn of events.

"Morning, Dawnie," Buffy greeted her softly.  "Why don't we go down and get some breakfast, and I'll explain," she suggested, gingerly extracting herself from the bed and the slumbering vampire it contained.  Reluctantly, Dawn turned and preceded her sister into the hallway.

When they reached the kitchen, Buffy made a beeline for the coffeemaker as Dawn settled herself on a stool at the island.  She wanted to be cool and wait for the Slayer to explain exactly why she been snuggled up with her second vampire – again! – but patience was not a virtue that ran in the Summers family.

"Well," she demanded as Buffy started the coffee a-perking, "explain!"  Buffy rolled her eyes in good-natured big sister annoyance and took a deep breath.

"Spike was having bad dreams.  I don't know what about, but he was pretty freaked."

"So you decided cuddling was the answer?!" Dawn retorted dubiously.

"Not cuddling,"  Buffy replied.  "I remember how Mom used to hold me when I had nightmares, and it seems to help him, calm him down.  Besides, we did the over-under thing," she concluded dismissively.

"What?!"  Dawn's eyes almost popped out of her head, which was a real and disgusting possibility on the Hellmouth.

"You know, over-under?  One person sleeps under the sheet and the other sleeps on top of it?  Don't tell me it's not still standard sleepover procedure.  It's a scientifically proven cooties-prevention technique," she stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh," Dawn breathed, obviously relieved.  "I thought you meant… never mind."

"Dawn Emily Summers, are you having naughty thoughts again?"  Buffy's teasing tone and knowing smile only increased her sister's discomfort.

"Um, no?"

Buffy laughed at that, a real honest-to-goodness, face-scrunching laugh.  Dawn was starting to get scared.  The sudden return of a happy Buffy was kinda weird.

"I'm  sorry, Dawn.  I know this is confusing for you," she said as she reached for her favorite mug.  "It's confusing for me, too.  All I know is that we need Spike if we're gonna figure out how to beat whatever's coming.  And he needs us.  So we're all gonna help each other, and we're gonna get through this.  All of us."