Awake –LIV

"Where are you,

And I'm so sorry,

I cannot sleep,

I cannot dream tonight…"

I Miss You by Blink 182

It seemed so inherently wrong to Spike that his daughter's first home would be a crypt, and yet it was inevitable. The irony of introducing something so precious and new into an environment that was decrepit and dead was not lost on the vampire, and he worried on it from the moment the hospital called to say he could collect 'baby Summers' to the moment she was placed back into his arms. The absolute worst thing about the situation was that he knew Dawn would have hated the decision, and perhaps even hated him for making it.

However, Spike simply could not bring himself to accept the invitation to move into the Summers' home that Buffy had been ramming down his throat for days. Although he knew that Angel and Buffy would be on hand to provide all manner of help that he may require as an undead, clueless, and single father of a newborn, he balked at the potential for their interference, and at the thought of spending every moment in the house in which Dawn's laughter had once echoed.

Spike had left the hospital giving out a fake address to correspond with the fake name he had earlier presented, before carrying his daughter the whole seven blocks to the cemetery, wrapped tight in a soft yellow blanket that still carried remnants of Dawn's scent. All the way, Spike gazed at the baby, lost in a current of wonder and grief. For a long time, he would simply be treading water, but at least he now had a reason to refrain from drowning altogether.

He had made some preparations for the baby's homecoming, and had enlisted Willy's help in assembling the crib that he and Dawn had purchased, as well as procuring a number of portable heaters to ensure the baby would be kept warm at all times. An old chest of drawers was stocked with diapers and clothing that seemed too tiny to comprehend, and bottles of formula stood in the refrigerator, next to the blood bags, in regimental rows. However, Spike knew that a crypt could only be a temporary measure; that his own conscience and love for his child would not allow her to be raised in the dark, sometimes terrifying shadows of a graveyard mausoleum.

As he had weaved his way through the tombstones, the baby continued to sleep in his arms, peaceful and perfect as all sleeping children are. However, the very moment that the old mausoleum door had swung shut behind them with a creak of rusty hinges and a resonating bang that never failed to jar Spike's bones, the baby had started up a serious of caterwauling cries.

Spike's first course of action had been to replace her diaper; a chore that had not been undertaken for some hours. As soon as he had gently unbuttoned the baby's onesie and freed her legs, her cries had only grown in fervour, and she had begun to rake at her face with her nails in such a way that Spike was certain that she would claw her own eyes out. He had struggled then to slide a pair of mittens onto her miniature hands for a matter of her own protection, but each time he succeeded in securing one and moved on to tackle the other, the baby managed to free her hand again. Giving up after no less than a dozen attempts, Spike simply changed her more quickly than he had done anything in over one hundred years.

When his efforts had failed to soothe her screams, Spike had set about warming a bottle, only to overheat it in the microwave. Ten more lengthy minutes of shrieking elapsed before the milk was cooled enough for Spike to pass the teat through the baby's lips. However, instead of suckling, the infant turned her head and angrily screwed up her face, pushing the nipple from her mouth with her tongue.

Spike had systematically moved on to rocking, bouncing, swaying, and even singing The Cure's greatest hits, but the baby had not relented in her fury. She simply continued to cry, and with each minute that passed, Spike's heart broke a little more.

Finally, he sank down onto the dusty couch and cradled his daughter to his chest, rubbing soothing circles across her back as she hiccupped sobs and snuffled into his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, love," Spike murmured, pausing to rest a kiss to the side of her head, "without your Mum, I'm clueless."

His words only seemed to upset the baby further, and she thrashed in his arms as she squealed and her cheeks grew pinker. Spike let out a world weary sigh. He wondered how he would ever come to terms with his failure to protect Dawn in the face of his current failure as a father, and for just a second, he considered turning to the bottle of vodka buried at the back of the refrigerator for the answer. However, the thought was gone as rapidly as it appeared, and Spike rose to his feet to walk another lap of the mausoleum in a renewed bid to calm the baby. All thoughts of liquor were pushed to the back of his mind; she deserved that at the very least.

Spike's head whipped around as the door to the crypt creaked, swinging open suddenly to reveal Xander standing on the threshold with one hand buried in the pocket of his jacket, and his good eye nervously sweeping his surroundings. A stake stuck out of the waistband of his jeans, but Spike chose to assume that the weapon was a precaution against the fanged nasties he may meet whilst wandering one of Sunnydale's most popular cemeteries at close to midnight.

Xander's gaze finally rested upon Spike, and his lips twisted into a grimace of displeasure as the baby's shrieks caused his eardrums to pop.

"What do you want?" Spike demanded above his daughter's furious roars. He turned the full force of his meanest sneer upon Xander, who stepped into the crypt un-intimidated and uninvited. He paused to close the door behind himself before he crossed the floor and drew to a halt in front of Spike.

"Here, let me," Xander stated, reaching for the baby. Spike instinctively drew her closer to his chest, shaking his head at Xander.

"She's fine right here," he snapped, still bouncing from one foot to the other.

"Yeah, yeah, you got this," Xander replied, rolling his eye and gesturing with both hands for Spike to deposit the baby in his arms. "Come on, I'm serious."

Spike continued to glare at Xander for several moments before shooting a glance at his daughter, who was still squirming and screaming in his grasp. Drawing in a sharp breath, Spike hesitantly handed the baby over.

"Hey there, little lady," Xander crooned, lifting the baby up onto his shoulder and beginning to gently yet vigorously pat her back. Spike watched, his eyes narrowed.

"Careful," he chastised, "she's not a bloody…"

However, his words died on his lips as the baby opened her tiny mouth, and a loud belch resonated around the crypt. A thick trail of milky spit up snaked down Xander's shoulder, but as the baby fell quiet, he hardly seemed to notice nor care.

"How did…" Spike began, shaking his head and sighing before finally sinking back onto the cushions of the couch. Xander continued to rub the baby's back, his palm moving swiftly over the fabric of her cream onesie.

"My cousin has a couple of kids," Xander replied, peering analytically at the baby with a half-smile playing out across his lips. He added quietly, almost as an afterthought, "She looks a lot like her Mom."

Spike leaned forwards, propping his elbow on his knees and allowing his head to fall into his splayed palms. He was completely silent, and Xander watched with a sympathetic expression playing across his features as he recognised the composure of a man in throes of grief. It was not so long ago that the face that stared back at him in the mirror had reflected the very same.

"You're lucky, you know," said Xander eventually, moving to stand in front of Spike with the baby still cradled to his chest. He was enjoying the warmth of the tiny, snuffling body, and the way the child buried her face almost instinctively into him. It was something that Xander had once contemplated having with Anya, but something he had just recently come to terms with that he would not.

Spike glanced up and, although no tears descended his cheeks, they were clearly glistening unshed in the corners of his eyes. Xander knew what it was like to reach the point where crying just did not seem to be enough anymore, and he found his heart actually aching a little for the vampire.

"You still have a piece of her left," Xander continued, his good eye darting to the crown of the baby's head as she began to succumb to the pull of exhaustion. Her tiny fist drifted to her mouth, and she sucked at her fingers for comfort.

Spike's lip curled, and he rounded on Xander in the next moment, "Of course I know that. Do you think I'm a complete bloody wanker?"

Xander simply shrugged his shoulders slightly, his expression speaking for itself on the matter.

"I'm the lucky one," Spike ranted, scratching his head with both hands simultaneously and glaring at the floor as though the power of his gaze alone could bore a hole in the concrete. "She isn't. She's the one who's stuck with me. What do I contribute to this God-forsaken hell-hole of a planet? If it had been me instead…"

"But it wasn't," Xander interjected, his voice raised a little to convey his point, "and the sooner you deal with that and stop feeling so sorry for yourself, the sooner you can step up to the plate and be the Dad this little girl deserves."

"The Dad she deserves doesn't have bags of blood lined up in the fridge for brunch," growled Spike, pushing away from the couch and beginning to stride around the crypt again. "The Dad she deserves wouldn't have brought her home to a mausoleum."

"Buffy and Angel made you an offer," Xander stated, his tone sharpening as Spike rolled his eyes, "maybe you should consider taking them up on it, instead of wallowing here in whatever this is."

Spike had crossed the room in less than a second, using his vampire speed to his advantage, and bringing himself nose to nose with Xander, who barely even flinched at the proximity of the vampire. In her sleep, the baby emitted the softest sigh, and Spike blinked in surprise. Instantly, his anger evaporated, and he averted his gaze from Xander's. His apology was scrawled all over his drawn features, but Xander merely shook his head, conveying that there was no need to verbalise anything.

"I just…" Spike began, echoing the baby's sigh as he trailed off helplessly.

"You can't imagine how you're going to get out of bed each morning, get dressed, go to work, laugh with your friends, go to the grocery store, pick up the dry cleaning, or order take-out pizza, without her there to tell you you're doing it all wrong," Xander said quietly, his fingers toying with the infant's soft hair absently, "you can't think about how you'll never get to kiss the tip of her nose again, smell her shampoo when she thinks you're just hugging her, or have her ask you if her perfect ass looks fat in those jeans."

Spike stared, his lips parting and his mouth falling open in a silently respectful 'o' of understanding.

"You don't want to face the fact you'll never get to see her eyes crinkle when she smiles again, or have her force you to watch the same Tom Hanks movie seven nights in a row, or yell at you for putting a white towel in the laundry with black pants. But sooner or later, you're going to have to think about all those things… you're going to have to face them… because running from them – that's the way to betray her memory, right there. You can't pretend those things don't hurt; you shouldn't want to. You can learn to live with it, be the best father you can be, and make sure your daughter gets to have everything her Mom would ever have wanted for her because, if you don't… well, then you're not the man that Dawn thought you were."

Spike remained quiet and unmoving, failing to even glance up as Xander approached him and then carefully shifted the sleeping baby into his arms.

Xander's smile was brief but tender as he gazed at the infant's face.

"For what it's worth, I was wrong about her, and I'm sorry," he murmured, touching the crown of her head with the tips of his fingers before quickly lowering his hand to his side. "I'll swing by tomorrow evening, help you pack up your things ready to move in with Buffy."

Spike grunted in reply, but Xander knew that it was more due to the fact that he was struggling to swallow down the lump that had arisen in his throat, rather than any real arrogance or attempt at mutiny at the suggestion.

Nodding in understanding, Xander sauntered towards the door of the crypt, only pausing to turn back to Spike once he had reached the threshold.

"She's going to need a name sooner or later," Xander stated, allowing his words to hang in the air between them, before he turned on his heel and disappeared back out to the graveyard, gathering the collar of his jacket around his throat.

With his head bowed, Spike continued to stare at his child, and said nothing.

x-x-x

It was the early hours of the morning, and still pitch black, when Spike emerged with a start from the fitful slumber he had no recollection of drifting into. His eyes went immediately to the crib next to the couch, where the baby continued to sleep soundly, her chest rising in a steady rhythm that a parent could become easily transfixed by.

Slowly, Spike swung his legs over the side of the couch, and rose to his feet. Every last nerve was alive, but Spike remained uncertain as to what exactly had drawn him back into consciousness so abruptly. He only knew that they were no longer alone in the mausoleum.

His hand slid into the waistband of his pants, and Spike withdrew the gnarled stake he had elected to conceal there.

The air around him was ice cold, and Spike was certain he would have shuddered had his body temperature not been at a constant low anyway.

"I know you're there," he called out, his voice shaking a little as he shot a discrete glance at the baby, who flexed her fingers as she slept on contentedly. Gripping the stake tighter, Spike circled around the back of the couch, his eyes sweeping every crevice of the crypt for signs of movement.

"Show yourself," he demanded, his tone more certain and forceful now as anger began to prickle at him. He would make whatever scaly bastard that had broken into his home pay, and he was fairly confident he would do so without even breaking a sweat. He began to realise, too little too late, that he should have taken Buffy and Angel up on their offer sooner rather than later. It pained him to admit that Xander had had a point.

Spike stiffened as a tendril of frosty air drifted past his earlobe, and he felt it brush against his cheek almost as though fingers were caressing him.

"I don't like to play games," he growled, his fury building. His features contorted, and Spike realised that he wore the face of his demonic counterpart now. His fangs skimmed his lower lip and he emitted a low snarl of warning.

However, as a familiar voice spoke his name from the darkest corner of the crypt, and a brilliant and blinding white light began to permeate the room, the fangs and ridges melted away to reveal the heartbroken face of the young man.

Gently, Spike whispered, "Dawn?"

A. N. – Wow, again I suck with the updates. I hope this chapter made up for that at least a little. Just two more chapters to go now, and then… well, you'll see! Reviews are love.