Spike found Dawn in the living room, sitting in the dark, her only light coming from the tv, flickering from dark to light as whatever she wasn't watching demanded. He lit a candle, a red holiday pillar, pristine and probably put there for show and then, grabbing the remote in passing, made himself comfortable on the couch as he clicked off the tv.

"You aren't supposed to be here," Dawn said, not looking up.

"You aren't supposed to be alone," he replied, trying to sound as if he didn't care while putting his feet up on the coffee table. She glanced over at him but then looked away again. He didn't know what was bothering the Little Bit but knew she'd spill if he was silent long enough.

After about three minutes, she said, "When Mom was alive." As she paused, Spike thought, Ah, that. Should've know. First Christmas without Joyce.

"All the other parents," Dawn said, starting again, "told their kids to go to bed, that Santa wouldn't show if they weren't asleep, but not Mom. Each year Buffy and I would try to stay awake, blinking our eyes open as long as we could, and each year we'd wake to find presents under the tree, too excited by Christmas morning to care that we'd missed Santa." She paused, as if considering something, and then added, "I'd never noticed back then that we were always tucked in under blankets by morning."

"You can stay up all night tonight, if you like, to wait up for Santa," Spike offered.

He could tell, by her expression, that Dawn was thinking of Buffy, but when she spoke she didn't mention her sister. "You sure Willow'll go for it?"

Spike played at being affronted. "You don't think the witch would deny me, do you?"

Dawn's smile was sad, but it was there. "Well, yeah."

"How about you make us some hot chocolate, with those little marshmallows mind you, and let me handle Red."

Dawn fell asleep before Willow came home, and Spike watched over her, under the glow of that one candle, until he heard Buffy coming up the walkway. Quickly brushing his lips to Dawn's forehead, he tucked her in just a bit more snuggly, before hightailing it to the back door where he waited, listening. As he heard Buffy step into the house, he leaned toward her, as if about to take a step, before, as he dropped his head down towards the floor, he walked out and let the door close behind, locking him out with the ghost of a click.