Title: A Devil's Chance

Author: A.J. Hofacre

Summary: I wrote this back when I still had most of the good cable channels, including FX, and season five was going through its run. I'm going through a major sympathy thing for Spike right now, just cuz I love him. It takes place after the events of "Crush," "I Was Made To Love You," and "The Body." Joyce is dead, but I don't mention anything from the actual episode in there (cuz shame on me, I can't remember).

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Not mine, yeah, yeah, belongs to the genius that is Joss Whedon. Ugh, the Buffy cast is property. That's disturbing :(

Author's Note: I took full advantage of creative licensing, if you couldn't tell :) All-in-all, I'm proud of this piece. I actually focused on feelings!

By the way, for the love of ALL that is on this god-forsaken planet, would somebody assist me in trying to get my bold and italic keys working? Computers hate me, I swear!

Now, on with the chaos :)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

He stood stark still, looking in from the outside. He didn't want to alarm them anymore than he already had. Not that it mattered. Dawn feared him, Buffy hated him, and Joyce... oh, Christ. Joyce had actually liked him... well, up until everyone discovered that his interest in her eldest was WAY past wanting to kill her areas and were now deep into `I live for her' territories, not to mention a fair dip every now and then into `GOD I wanna fuck the bleedin' daylights out of her' country. But... Joyce was gone now. So unfair.

Giles and the rest of the Slayer's friends wanted to kill him. And the sad, pathetic part about it was that Spike actually liked the nits. He wanted... he wanted their friendship. He wanted to trust and confide in these people, to be treated as one of them... to belong. More than anything, he wanted to mean something to them, like they meant something to him. He would never admit it out loud, but what the Scoobies thought of him really mattered to him. Oh, shit, he just admitted it. Oh, whatever.

He wasn't stupid. He knew that he couldn't fit in with them. He didn't actually... want to. He was just desperate, he guessed. He was a vampire, in the midst of humans. Well, four humans, a Slayer, and ex-demon, and a Key. Still, though. They all had blood running through their veins. Well, in a way, he did too... Ah. They were all alive. He wasn't. He was just... undead. Animated flesh. So he didn't really have a place among them. But, dammit, he wanted to! He wanted friends! He hadn't had friends in... a -very- long time.

Spike had never felt so alone.

Quietly smoking a Malboro Menthol, he watched them through the window of the Magic Box, talking and laughing together. Inhaling the minty smoke, he peered around the shop, his blue eyes glinting like sapphires in his search for the blonde Slayer. Finally, he spotted her, sitting on the counter next to the cash register, watching Anya tally up the money from the day's sales.

The Royal Pain in The Ass (otherwise known as Xander) responded to something the bespectacled Watcher had said, and was rewarded with a balled up sheet of paper to his face for his troubles. Spike knew at once that the little bleeding pillock had said something obnoxious or just plain stupid from the look on Red's face - she'd been the one to throw the paper while the rest of the group burst into laughter. Spike watched longingly as he saw his Slayer's face break into a tiny smile.

He closed his eyes, his dead heart wrenching in pain, resting his head against the wall. God, he wished he could be the reason for that smile. Actually, he amended, he was probably the reason for a lot of smiles, ever since that bloody robot girl had thrown him through the goddamn window at the Bronze. His face twisted into a sarcastic sneer. Yeah, LOTS of funny smiles cuz of Spike. He sighed. But... if it hadn't of been for him, the Slayer's smile might've been a gale of laughter. It was his fault... all of it.

But god-fucking-dammit, if she had just LISTENED to him!

Spike looked up at the Slayer's beautiful face one more time. Then he threw his cigarette to the ground and put it out with the heel of his chunky boot. He heaved a deep, unneeded breath and turned, starting to trudge home.

Buffy looked around at her family and sighed. They'd been so overly protective of her ever since - no, nope, SO not gonna think about that. Christ, she felt uncomfortable just PREPARING to think of that stupid blonde bloodsucker. That... loved her. Wiggy.

She felt a faint tingling sensation at the nape of her neck. It spread across her body and every nerve ending she had began dancing. The sensation combined in the pit of her stomach and burned. She rolled her eyes. Great. Slayer senses: armed. Hopping of the counter, Buffy glanced out the doors of the shop. Spotting a flash of black leather and a shock of white hair, she groaned inwardly, then looked around and smiled at everyone.

"I'd... better get going," she said softly, then glanced at the young brunette curled into a ball, asleep in the corner with her hair fanning out around her. She glanced up at Giles. "I have to patrol, and I... you know... the whole Glory thing... could you, uh..." she trailed off, chewing on her lower lip. Giles nodded, smiling warmly, first at Buffy, then at her younger sister.

"Of course, Buffy. I'll see to it that Dawn gets home safely tonight." Buffy gave him a tight smile and turned toward the door, stopping and gritting her teeth slightly when Xander said, "Hey, Buff, I could come with! You know, thin out the baddies?" Buffy forced another tight smile on her face and turned to look at him.

"Nah... that's okay, Xand. I'll be fine. Just... take care of Dawnie till I get back from patrol, kay?" She could practically see the frown in everyone's eyes. Well, except for Anya, who looked up momentarily to wish her a good luck on patrol before turning back to her money. Xander nodded reluctantly and Giles frowned. Buffy turned and headed out the door, grimacing as she heard Willow call, "Be extra careful tonight!"

As soon as she got out of the store, she looked around for the bleached wonder, and spotted about seventeen cigarette butts on the ground, littering the area beside the window. She rolled her eyes again. Obviously, he'd been there for a while. She glanced around her, expecting to see him come sauntering out from the shadows of the alley.

It wasn't until she stared down the street that she saw he was doing anything but. She took a few steps, curiosity peaked, and started to speak, but something stopped her. It might've been the fact that he wasn't even turned toward her. Or maybe it was the sudden questions darting through her head, asking WHY she wanted to call out to him. But for certain, part of her hesitation had simply been seeing him.

She watched silently as Spike stalked away, running his smooth, long fingers wearily through his short platinum hair. He dropped his arm, then, and Buffy saw his shoulders slump in what could only be described as defeat. None of his usual Big Bad bravado and `don't fuck with me' attitude remained, and he trudged along slowly, his 24-year-old leather duster billowing and lapping around his strong legs.

Buffy watched him curiously, something inside her unexpectedly squeezing at the sight of him. Was it possible for an infamous `Slayer of Slayers' to look so... vulnerable? And heartbroken? This was just getting weird. Spike hadn't even looked that depressed when he'd come back to Sunnydale after Drusilla had dumped him for a Chaos demon (which, according to Spike, was absolutely disgusting. That had toned down her eagerness to actually see one.)

Then again, Spike had been drinking himself into a stupor most of the time he'd been there, so that might explain it a little. But he just looked so... depressed and defeated now. And Buffy did NOT like the affect it was having on her, dammit!

She shook her head and sighed, cursing whoever it was up there that so loved meddling in her life, then walked to the cemetery to begin a [very] short patrol.

¤ ¤ ¤

"I just BAM don't punch get it! slam punch kick slap Of ALL the people he smack could have an obsession with, WHY kick did it have to be ME? Is it just me or is my scrape whole fucking life a joke to the Higher Powers? I mean, bite did he just - ew, you taste gross. Anyway, did he just look at me one day and say" - she changed her voice to imitate Spike's accent - "Well, I've hated her for three years; why don't I throw `em for a bit of a loop and say I love her? That oughta twist their knickers!"

The vampire Buffy was ranting at replied with a groan of both pain and irritation. Its face was a mess of blood and flesh, proof of Buffy's aggravation and strange obsession over the topic. She stopped pummeling the pathetic minion - who, truthfully, wasn't giving her much of a fight - and sighed. Then she pulled out a stake.

"Why am I bothering to talk to you?" she asked, then flung her arm out and buried the stake in his heart. The vampire glanced up at her and emitted a squeak before exploding into a large puff of dust. Buffy sighed and turned around. She glanced through the cemetery quietly before nodding and walking out.

It'd been quiet tonight. That last vamp had been only one of three she'd dusted. She had a feeling they all knew what was coming, with such a big force of... ahem... `evil,' such as Glory, roaming around, so they'd been keeping to themselves.

She suddenly wished she'd taken up Xander's continuous offer to patrol with her. At least then she wouldn't have felt so lonely. She wondered how Spike did it. Since Drusilla [and Harmony] had left him, he'd been alone every day of his... unlife.

Buffy stopped - literally. She looked around, a grimace on her face.

"God, I have GOT to stop thinking about him!" Buffy groaned out loud, then continued walking.

Naturally, her inner thoughts, which were slowly starting to overcome her sensible ones, paid no heed to her wishes.

She still couldn't understand it. She *loathed* him. Ever since she'd met him, he'd been nothing but an aggravation to her, like a bloody gnat and - oh, for God's sake, now he was starting to corrupt her speech! She just couldn't fathom it - she thought he hated her. Why didn't he hate her? What was it with Spike and the not-hating?

That was the way it worked, right? Him? Evil vampire. Her? Vampire Slayer. The two clash, and generally only one came out alive. Well, that hadn't been the case twice with him, but that was pre-chip. Well, also, she and Spike had never actually beaten each other before. They'd stopped fighting because of interruptions, and had truces, but neither had ever actually beat the other. But it was so weird, because she'd seen the way Spike had been with Drusilla, and realized that he loved her, but it never fully registered that he COULD love. And now he loved HER. Where the hell was the twist in that?

The strange thing about Spike, though, was that out of all the vampires in his line - the Master, Darla, Angelus and, god help them... Drusilla, Spike seemed the sanest. Well, duh, of course he was sane when compared to Drusilla and his soul-less grandsire. Not the point! Spike didn't live for the torture or world domination, like they did. Spike was simply content with the hunt. He (usually) only killed to feed (and when he didn't, it was to make a point), and since he'd been chipped up by the goddamn Initiative, he couldn't do that anymore. He lived off of packets of donated human's blood, for God's sake. Spike lived for his darkness, and he loved being a vampire. To most vampires, it was simply about being able to kill whoever you wanted, and the main thing about them was that they were all selfish sods. There was only a handful of them that weren't doing it for money or for the plain pleasure of killing people. Spike had done it out of his instinct for survival.

Buffy had always seen him as a creature of darkness. He could be evil with the best of them. What had tampered with her feelings (albeit only for a bit), was when he had come to her of his own volition, while the world's destruction once again loomed in the future. Spike's purpose when he'd brought Drusilla to Sunnydale was to cure her of her illness, become the new Master in town, and to kill the Slayer and up his record. But when push came to shove, Spike abandoned his instincts and put aside his bloodlust to get Drusilla back. They'd put their hatred of each other to rest in order to keep the world from going to hell - literally. She'd even trusted him enough to let him inside her home, with her mother and Dawn, for four years. He could've easily killed the both of them... but he hadn't.

When he'd come back a year later, after Dru had left him, he'd... well, he'd kidnapped Xander and Willow in hopes of getting her back. But then he'd looking for Buffy at her home, found Joyce instead, and had ended up sitting at the island in the kitchen with her. Joyce had even made him hot chocolate (what the hell?), and had sat with him willingly, listening to his complaints and heartache over his former lover with honesty and compassion. Buffy wondered what exactly her mother had seen in the vampire that had made her care. Maybe she'd actually felt sorry for him. Whatever. Buffy just didn't get it.

She snapped out of her reverie when she realized that her feet had taken her all the way to Spike's cemetery. Inwardly, she cursed her subconscious for taking control of her body. Then she gulped and hid when she saw him emerge from his crypt. With a bouquet of flowers in hand. She groaned softly.

Fuck, I can't believe he's bringing me FLOWERS! she whined mentally. Getting up when he was no longer in view, Buffy quietly watched as he wove his way through the gravestones, staying a fair enough distance away in hopes that he wouldn't sense her.

Damn, was she surprised. Buffy should've figured it out when she first saw him leave his crypt. Spike had an acute sense of awareness, especially when it came to Buffy. If the flowers had been for her, he would have located her in an instant and handed them to her. She stared in surprise when Spike stopped and lovingly placed the bouquet on the ground. He brought his hand to his lips, kissed his fingers, and then touched them to the petals of the flowers. Taking a deep breath, he stood up and his shoulders slumped. He turned away, heading back to his crypt, and took away a small bundle of dead flowers that had lain in the spot earlier.

When she was sure that Spike was gone, Buffy crept out from her hiding place and walked to where the flowers had been placed, her jaw dropping in amazement and confusion. Well, he'd definitely had flowers for a woman, but it hadn't been her.

She knelt down in front of her mother's burial plot. Her fingers reached out, gently touching the petals of the lavender lily, the only one in the midst of pink roses, placed strategically in the center. Then she stared up in wonder in the direction Spike had gone in.

Wow.

¤ ¤ ¤

"And there they were, just lying in front of *Mom's* grave. I mean, I saw him kiss the flowers, and the marble, and everything. Well, I've been wondering where those damn flowers kept coming from. I guess I know now, huh?" Willow's small pink mouth formed a petite frown and she looked at Buffy skeptically.

"Are you sure that he wasn't just doing it to strike a sympathy chord with you? Did he see you and try to pull a sensitive guy thing for Buffy points? He's pulled that type of thing before... but, um, not with the flower give-y thing." Willow was quick to add that last part on. Buffy shook her head.

"Didn't see me. In fact, I don't think he even realized I was following him. He's really starting to let himself go. And if he knew I was there, he didn't let on that he had. I mean, he was walking to Mom's grave with a purpose. He was planning on going there, even if he didn't know I was there. And like I said, this wasn't the first time I've found flowers lying there." Dawn tilted her head, staring at her older sister, then looked down, a tiny smile on her face.

"I knew he was a good guy," she whispered under her breath. She wanted to go see Spike and wrap him up in a big hug (which, now that she thought about it, he would probably pull away from, ranting and raving). She wanted to say that she never doubted him and flatter him as much as she could, since he apparently liked that. But considering the Glory sitch at the moment, Buffy wouldn't even let her out of her ROOM at night, let alone the house.

When Buffy had told them that Spike had chained her up in his crypt with threats to unleash Drusilla on her, she'd been stunned. She couldn't believe that Spike would do something like that. He'd seemed so cool that time that he'd allowed her to stay in his crypt after school. He'd even acted a little concerned when he'd told her that little story, and she'd become nervous. There was NO way he could've had the heartlessness to do that. Something had to have provoked him. And her guess was that the something had been a certain annoying older sister slash Slayer.

The first time she'd met Spike, he'd tried to scare her, but she hadn't wavered. She'd been eleven going on twelve, and was developing the strong sense of obnoxious qualities that every pre-teen owned with a passion and pride. Granted these weren't real memories to her, just ones those stupid monks had made up, but dammit, they felt real!

She, her mother, and Buffy had moved to Sunnydale after Buffy had been expelled from Hemery, and they'd set up a new life without Hank Summers. The first six months had been all right, and after Buffy's sophomore year at Sunnydale High School had been completed, the girls returned to Los Angeles to spend the summer with their father.

Buffy had been acting strange the entire time, and a few nights after they returned to Sunnydale, things came to a head. When Buffy had snuck into her room around midnight that night, with the big, dark-haired lunkhead (otherwise known as Angel) crawling in behind her, Dawn had been cuddled up on her bed waiting. Angel had been the first to notice her and had immediately reared back in shock. He'd gotten fidgety, and after an extremely uncomfortable silence, he said good-bye to Buffy, nodded good-night at Dawn and left through the window again. Buffy hadn't been able to get rid of her, and when Dawn asked about the tear tracks on her face and the dust in her hair, Buffy had sworn her to secrecy and explained what had happened. And the only way to fully make her sister understand was to tell her the truth - the WHOLE truth - including Angel's identity, and her own two-minute-long death.

Around two months later, Buffy and Dawn had had a fight. Dawn had wanted to go out to the Bronze with Buffy, Xander, and Willow, and all three had explained (as patiently as three sixteen-year-olds could to an eleven-year-old) that the Bronze wouldn't even allow her in. Somehow, the argument escalated, until just Buffy and Dawn were raving at each other, and the subject centered itself on their father. Dawn blamed Buffy for being the sole cause for their parent's divorce, and stated that she hated her sister for making their father leave them. Dawn had then ran up the steps to her room, leaving Buffy to walk to the Bronze in tears, Xander and Willow trying vainly to comfort her.

It hadn't occurred to Dawn how much pressure her sister had been under since she'd gone back to school; the new principal was at her throat every hour of the school day, and a brand new bad guy had just come into town with a crash-bang --literally. Apparently, whoever it was had torn down the `Welcome to Sunnydale' sign a couple of nights ago. Hearing that she was the cause for their parents' divorce had dumped a huge load of guilt onto Buffy's shoulders that she just didn't need. But Dawn didn't really care.

As soon as Buffy was gone, Dawn had snuck down the staircase and run out the door. She ran as far as the Sunnydale Public Library, and stayed in there for nearly two hours. Then she decided to leave only when she realized that her sister would never be caught dead even two feet near the library of her own free will.

Heading down the alley next to the ice cream shop, she froze as a tall, lean figure swaggered toward her. She tilted her head, watching with interest as the darkness fell away, revealing a handsome young man. He looked to be in his mid- or late twenties, had piercing blue eyes and a shock of platinum white hair. Dressed all in black, with the exception of a deep, ruby colored shirt over top a black T-shirt, the man smiled slyly at her, as if he had something up his sleeve (which, Dawn realized now, he probably did). He cocked his head to the right, revealing a glaring scar over his left eyebrow and sharp cheekbones.

"Now, then... what's a pretty young thing like yerself doin' out here all alone?" were the first words he'd spoken to her. She was instantly intrigued. He was British. Plus, the bleached hair, and the scar, WAY cool...

She'd responded in a snooty voice, calling him Billy Idol (who, truthfully, she wouldn't have even known about had it not been for her dad's obsession with `80s punk music). He'd looked confused for a fraction of a second before he realized that she was making a straight knock on his look. Growling in anger (for the comparison, AND for the unwelcome use of one of his many despised nicknames), he vamped out and lunged for her, snarling and growling as he came face to face with the small girl. Dawn had yawned, acting unimpressed, though inside, she was squealing in delight. He was a vampire. This was SO COOL!

He realized suddenly that she wasn't quaking in fear like many of his victims did. Confused, he'd asked her why she wasn't running around, screaming her bloody head off. She'd shrugged and replied, with all honesty, "Cuz I think you're cool." He'd stood ramrod straight the second she said it, his demon features slipping off and being replaced by his much more attractive human visage, graced with a look of indulgent pride. He gave her a cocky grin and tilted his head.

"What's yer name, Nibblet?"

"Dawn. What about you?"

"William the Bloody. I prefer Spike. Call me Spike, or I'll rethink letting you go back to the Land of the Walking Happy Meals." Dawn had giggled. This little girl had immediately impressed Spike. She had most definitely won his respect, and the annoying, human part of him that remained told him not to eat her. She was important. Deciding that he rather liked... Dawn... he made the slight alteration in his mind NOT to feed her to his darling Dru. Maybe he'd just walk the little chit home and make a meal out of some dumb, unsuspecting teenager.

When he asked her what had brought her out in the middle of the night, Dawn (desperately needing someone to talk to) had spilled the beans, not really dropping any names. Spike, allowing his bloodlust, `grr, vampire, kill all' attitude to recede for a bit, had offered the best advice he could. He was being reminded of his own torn childhood, except he'd been the oldest, with a younger sister, his mother had been ill, and his father had been a drunk.

By the time they'd reached her home, Dawn had felt infinitely better, even feeling guilty for turning on Buffy the way she had. Spike had taken one look at the home he'd stopped in front of and froze. He knew whose house this was; he'd had his minions scout it too many times with cameras not to know.

"Uh... luv... you live... here?"

"Yuh-huh."

"Pet... Who's this mum and sis of yours?" Dawn tilted her head.

"Joyce and Buffy Summers." Spike's eyes glinted mischievously, and he gave Dawn an adorably innocent smile.

"Say, sweet pea... ya think you could... invite me in?" Dawn grinned at him, suddenly realizing who this guy was. She walked through her front door.

"As if." She heard Spike chuckling as he walked away, muttering something about bloody brilliant kids. She grinned to herself proudly. She'd stood up to a vampire, and hadn't gotten her head torn off!

Dawn snapped back to attention when she heard Buffy saying her name.

"Uh, yeah?" she asked, her eyes wide and innocent. Buffy stared at her, frowning.

"Are you okay, space case? You've got one of your loopy looks on." Dawn sat up.

"Oh... it's nothing, Buffy. Just thinking." Buffy nodded, then stood up. Willow mimicked her, giving Dawn a hug.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow, kay? I'll bring Tara over, too, and she can take you to the movies," Willow said in her chirpy little way, smiling brightly at Dawn. Dawn smiled wearily and nodded. Buffy gave her best friend a half-smile.

"Yeah, Wills. Be careful out there. Later!" Buffy closed the door as her friend walked down the porch steps. Sighing, she turned back to her sister.

"I'm beat. Let's go to bed, kay?" she said softly, her voice taking on a pleading edge. She didn't want any arguments tonight. She was -exhausted- and just wanted to sleep. Dawn understood immediately, biting her lip and nodding at her older sister. She paused, then looked at her hopefully.

"Buffy... can I sleep in your room tonight? Please?" Buffy looked at Dawn and gave her a warm smile full of affection, putting her arm around her younger sister. It wasn't an unusual request from the younger Summers girl; Dawn had been asking of it ever since Joyce had died.

"Come on, Dawnie," she said softly, leading her up the stairs.

Once in Buffy's room, Dawn, fully changed, sat down cross-legged on the bed.

"Buffy... what do you think it means?" Buffy looked up.

"Hmm, what?"

"Spike... the flowers on Mom's grave. What do you think it means?" Buffy stopped dressing and regarded her sister with a frown. She felt a tingling at the base of her neck, and a shiver crawled down her back. She ignored it, then shrugged, walking over to the bed and crawling in.

"I don't know," she murmured. Just then, Dawn caught a flash of white in the window and tried not to grin when she saw a cerulean blue eye sparkle and wink at her.

"Well... how do you feel about it? About this whole thing with him?" Buffy sighed and brought her knees up to her chest, chewing on her lower lip.

"I don't know. I think... what he did for Mom... it was sweet. But he still tied me up. I can't forgive what he did. I mean, he chained me up with his psycho ex, Dawnie. He threatened to let her kill me, and then he stood in front of me and declared some freaky form of affection for me? I just..." Buffy trailed off and sighed. Dawn stayed quiet, eyeing the blonde vampire hidden in the dark near the window. It was especially cold that night. Probably why Buffy hadn't noticed him.

"Don't you think that... maybe... if you'd listened to him for just a second... he wouldn't have done that to you?" Dawn said, so meekly that there was no way Buffy could be angry with her sister for asking such a thing. She sighed again.

"Maybe. I keep thinking that I should've listened. I mean, I was just starting to trust him the tiniest bit, and then he had to pull something like that. And him telling me... THAT. It felt so weird."

"Why?" Buffy looked at Dawn in surprise.

"Why? Because he's a vampire, Dawn. Vampires can't... love, not without a soul."

"I think they can. Spike was in love with Drusilla, remember?" Buffy glanced at Dawn.

"Dru was his Sire, he was SUPPOSED to love her." Dawn shook her head.

"Spike was really in love with her, Buffy. I mean, you'd have to be a complete moron to not have seen it. He always put her before himself, he didn't care where the odds were. He cared more about her than himself. He really loved her, and I think that he really loves you." Buffy winced and looked away.

"But why? How? I just... don't understand it. Of all people, why ME?" Dawn tilted her head.

"Don't know. You know Spike. He was always different. Compared to Angel and Dru, he was definitely the sanest. He never really followed the rules. I think he LIKES breaking them. A vampire falling in love with the Slayer pretty much breaks every rule in the Vampire Handbook to a Successful Un-Life." Buffy snorted. Outside the window, Spike smirked. Heh. Look like his Nibblet was getting through to the Ice Princess. Buffy sighed.

"How can he love me, though? I mean... Angel lost his soul, and he HATED me. Spike doesn't even have a soul to lose, and he lo--feels that way about me? It's just... SO beyond wiggy. And... well, yeah, the `I'll gladly disgrace my kind for you' thing, kinda sweet, but... I mean, jeez! Not even five months ago, he wanted me dead!" Dawn scrutinized her sister.

"Why is this so weird to you? You keep coming up with the same old excuses for him not to love you, Buffy. You're the Slayer, he has no soul, he'll leave, the fact that he's Spike altogether... Jeez, Buffy, he LOVES you. Shouldn't that be enough to give him a chance?" Buffy pouted.

"Dawnie, you know full well that I could NEVER give him a chance! Not just for the fact that I am SO not interested, but also, MAJOR Giles and Xander hostility factor there. They would stake him if they ever got half a chance, and I don't want that." Dawn's eyes widened, and Spike nearly fell off his perch in the tree, his jaw dropping. Buffy immediately realized her error. "I-I mean I don't want that on my... my conscience. You know, cuz up until what happened, he's sort of been a good puppy and I just... He's good to have around in a-a crisis. That's all." Dawn just gave her a very Spike-like smirk. Buffy narrowed her eyes.

"I mean it! Especially with the two-cent tramp prancing around, he's got a good chance at helping us stop her! He's... I don't know, Dawnie, he's... well, he's SPIKE, for one thing, but he just... I just... and I..." Dawn smiled softly.

"You don't know what it is that he sees in you. You don't understand what can make someone fall in love with a person they supposedly hated. You don't know why Spike understands you better than Riley or Angel ever did. And you're terrified that he's actually gonna be the one to stay this time." Buffy stared in awe at the knowledge that her little sister had just displayed. She certainly was intuitive. A minute went by before she nodded slowly.

"Yes. Exactly," she whispered. "I don't know why he gets to me so much, I mean, he practically gets inside my brain. It's kind of... amazing, really. He's always there at all the right times." Dawn shot a look out the window pointedly, then smiled knowingly at her distraught older sister.

"G'night, Buffy," she said, scooting down and snuggling under the covers. Buffy nodded, grateful for the topic to be dropped.

"Goodnight, Dawnie," she replied. Starting to scoot down next to her sister, she froze and looked around, toward the window. She could've sworn... Nah. She shrugged off the feeling.

Outside, Spike watched as his two girls snuggled up under the covers and went to sleep. A tiny smile was on his face as he let their conversation run through his head. My Bit's a bright one, she is, he thought proudly. He'd heard the tone in Buffy's voice. Longing... wistful... He'd heard something in her voice, dammit... something that had given him that crumb he'd asked for.

Maybe Buffy would be able to see him someday.

He smiled at his girls and blew them kisses through the window.

"G'night, princesses," he murmured, focusing on his Slayer.

Maybe, someday, he'd have an inkling of a chance.