Spike was standing at the sink finishing the dinner dishes when he felt a tug on his pants leg. Biting his lip to keep from smiling, he looked down at the precious bundle he had the honor of calling daughter.
"What are you doing up, poppet?"
"Read for me," Anne asked.
"Where's your mother?"
"Let me finish the dishes and we'll give it a go."
Spike blew her a kiss as he turned to get his evening chore done, or Buffy would have him staked before dawn. Never in a million years would he have imagined a life so full, let alone with Buffy as his wife and mother of his children.
The morning after he and the others had taken on the evil Wolfram and Hart gang, he woke up a changed man. Not really a spiritual change as much as a physical kind. He could hear his own heart beating and felt the warmth of the sun upon his body. The shock that he wasn't a pile of dust kept him immobile until he felt a soft touch on his cheek.
The look of wonder on Buffy's face touched his heart and made him fall in love with her all over again. The tears that fell down her face was those of joy and it strengthened his belief that he'd finally found his reward for saving the world twice.
Since that day, they were never apart more than a few days at the most. Ten months from that day, Anne was born, kicking and screaming her pretty little head off. Two months ago, the second addition to the family came; Robert James.
"Are you going to read to Anne?" Buffy asked from the doorway. "I'm going to finish with R.J. and then lay him down for the night."
"On my way, luv."
Spike dried his hands and then hurried to catch up with his lovely wife so he could kiss her softly on the lips. Never did a day go by that he didn't thank the powers at hand for giving her to him.
"Love you," he said with a smile before he gently kissed his son's forehead. "Just so you know, you've made me the happiest bloke in the world."
Buffy watched as her husband and mate ran up the stairs to read to their daughter. Later, she would tell him just how happy he'd made her since she found him alive in the alley. She knew Angel was disappointed that she had chosen Spike over him, but in her heart, knew who her true champion and soulmate really was. Angel would always be special, since he was her first love, but a girl would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to let a man like William get away.
It didn't matter now, since Angel was happily married to Nina. Buffy liked the girl, even if she was a werewolf. Both Angel and Spike had come out of the battle semi-human. They still had some supernatural strength that was a plus in working with her to fight evil.
"Bedtime for you, my little man," she cooed at their son. "You're going to grow up handsome, just like your daddy."
Spike walked into his daughter's room with a lump in his throat. There she sat Indian style, looking younger than her four years. Her light brown hair lay in waves down her back as she held her new book in her lap. She was the spitting image of Buffy when she was a little girl.
"Here, Daddy, read this. Aunty Dawn brought it."
"Love to, poppet," he said as he took the book and smiled at the title. "The Velveteen Rabbit. Good choice."
"It's a cloth that's as soft as velvet. Like Aunt Willow's black dress."
"Oh, I like that dress."
"Get comfortable, pet," Spike instructed and chuckled at how his little Buffy wiggled under the covers and lay her pretty head on her favorite pillow.
"Sit by me."
"Will do, princess."
Spike smiled as his precious child snuggled against him once he was beside her on the bed. He never let an opportunity that gave him a chance to spend time with those he loved the most pass him by.
"The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams."
"Do you think she had children?"
"I'm sure she did," Spike answered with a patience that showed the love he had for his very curious daughter. Then he began to read.
"There was once a velveteen rabbit. He was fat and bunchy, his coat was spotted brown and white and his ears were lined with pink sateen."
Spike took a moment to think about her question before answering. "I'm not sure, but I guess it has to do with being lumpy-like."
Spike bit his lip to keep from laughing. He loved her innocence and how she would ask questions about things she didn't understand. Spike was sure she got that trait from him.
"On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming." He knew the question was coming.
"What's a sprig of holly?"
"Holly is the plant your mummy puts out at Christmas. The one with the red berries, and the sprig is what they call a piece of the plant."
"Oh, it's very pretty."
Spike continued, "For at least two hours the Boy loved him, and then, in the excitement of looking at all the new presents, the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten."
"Oh, poor rabbit."
"For a long time he lived in the nursery. He was naturally shy, and some of the more expensive toys snubbed him."
"When someone thinks they're better they you and ignore you."
"That's not nice."
"No, it's not, pet."
Spike ran his fingers through her soft hair and prayed she never felt the pain of rejection. He knew how it felt, and in a way, this story was a child's version of his life.
"The mechanical toys were very superior, and pretended they were real. The model boat caught the tone and referred to his rigging in technical terms. Even the jointed wooden lion put on airs. The only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse, who had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others." Spike waited to see is she had any questions before turning the page.
"What is REAL?" the Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, you become Real. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and you get very shabby."
"I suppose you are Real?" said the Rabbit.
"The boy's uncle made me Real many years ago," said the Skin Horse. "Once you are Real, it lasts for always."
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him.
Spike looked over at Anne and noticed she was still very wide-awake. He couldn't help but feel he'd been in the Rabbit's place a few times in his past. Once time was when he was growing up and his father only played with him when they had company. All other times, his father was never around. Another time was with Cecily. She really gave him a taste of rejection.
"One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn't find the china dog that always slept with him.
"Here," said Nana, who ruled the nursery. "Take your old Bunny. He'll do to sleep with you!"
Anne patted her father's arm to get his attention before she asked, "I thought nurseries were for babies?"
Spike smiled fondly as he explained, "A long time ago, a nursery was what they called all bedrooms for the little children."
"Oh, so this is my nursery?"
"Yes, pet," Spike agreed, giving her more time for questions if she had any.
"That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed."
"Like Mr. Gordo sleeps in mine."
It was times like these he missed Joyce the most. He wanted to know what Buffy was like as a little girl. One thing for sure, he'd never ask Hank. The man was a right bastard and he'd never let the excuse of a human anywhere near his family.
"The Rabbit grew to like it, for the Boy made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And when the Boy drooped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down under the Boy's warm chin and dream."
"What are bedclothes?"
"There're what you call blankets."
"What's a burrow?"
"It's the tunnel in the ground that real rabbits make to live in."
Spike watched as his little girl wiggled around and resettled herself in bed. This was one of his favorite things to do, and knew one day she'd be too old to let her dear old dad read to her. So, he'd take advantage now, before times like these would be a memory.
"The little Rabbit was so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier, and his tail coming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.
Spring came, and the Rabbit had rides in the wheelbarrow…and picnics on the grass….and fairy huts built for him under the raspberry canes.
Once, when the Boy was called away suddenly, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him because the Boy couldn't sleep unless he was there."
"It's when the night comes."
"Oh, I bet he was scared."
"But Nana found him, remember?"
"You don't always have to be afraid of the dark, princess. You just have to be aware of where you are and remember the things me and your mum will teach you as you get older," he assured her before continuing on with the story.
"Fancy all that fuss for a toy!" said Nana.
The Boy sat up in bed. "He isn't a toy," he said. "He's REAL!"
When the little Rabbit heard that, he was happy, for he knew that what the Skin Horse had said was true at last.
One summer evening, the Rabbit saw two strange beings creep out of the bracken. They where rabbits like himself, but quite furry. Their seams didn't show at all, and they changed shape when they moved.
"Can you hop on your hind legs?" asked the furry rabbit.
"Daddy, what's a bracken?"
"It's a plant like the bushes in the front yard." He simply replied as have her a few minutes to ask any more questions she might have.
"I don't want to," said the little Rabbit.
The furry rabbit stretched out his neck and looked. "He hasn't got any hind legs!" he called out. "And he doesn't smell right! He isn't a rabbit at all! He isn't real!"
"I am Real!" said the little Rabbit. "The Boy said so!"
Just then there was the sound of footsteps, and the two strange rabbits disappeared. For a long time the little Rabbit lay very still. Then the Boy came and carried him home.
"Daddy, can I go pee?"
"Sure, poppet, run along and don't forget to wash your hands."
Anne slipped off the bed and ran to the bathroom, almost running into her mother along the way.
Buffy giggled as she entered the bedroom and smiled softly at her husband. After listening him read to Anne, and answering all of her questions, she fell in love with him all over again. This man was her life and the best Dad in the world.
"She has you wrapped around her finger." Buffy teased him as she approached the bed.
"Just like her mum."
"And your excuse for R.J. will be?"
"He's our son."
"Spike, finish the story and then come to bed," Buffy said, her voice husky as she softly caressed his lips with her finger. "I need to show my husband how much I love him."
Spike's smile turned predator as he replied, "Could never say no to you, Goldilocks."
"You did once."
"When?" he asked, confused.
"In the caves in Sunnydale, if you remember."
"I'm sorry, pet."
"You can show me how sorry after I show you how much I love you," she teased, right before she kissed his lips tenderly. "I hear footsteps coming our way."
"I won't be much longer, baby."
"I'll be waiting, my personal Velveteen Hybrid Vampire," Buffy replied with a wink as she blew him a kiss before turning around to leave.
"I'm ready, Daddy," Anne said as she climbed back up onto her bed.
"Hands all cleaned?"
"Yep!" she said as she held out her plump little hands for inspection.
"Good job, pet. Now, on with the story."
Anne squirmed back under the blankets and reached further down for her special friend. Since she could remember, she never slept without the little stuffed pink pig her parents had given to her.
"One day, the Boy was ill. His face grew very flushed, and his little body was so hot that it burned the Rabbit when he held him close. It was a long, weary time…
Presently the fever turned, and the Boy got better. The doctor ordered that all the books and toys that the Boy had played with in bed be burned.
And so the little Rabbit was carried out to the garden. Nearby, he could see the raspberry canes in whose shadow he had played with the Boy, and a great sadness came over him. Of what use was it to be loved and become Real if it all ended like this? And a tear, a real tear, trickled down his shabby velvet nose and fell to the ground."
Spike heard his little girl sniffle and noticed she was crying. He gave her a moment, knowing she was going to say something, and needed to be reassured everything was going to be okay.
"Daddy, they can't burn him. He's real," she whispered, causing his heart to ache for her.
Spike reached down and used his free hand to wipe away her tears with the bed sheet. He knew this was only one of many times he would have to wipe away her tears. His prayer was that they would all be this easy to make go away once she heard the rest of the story.
"Let's finish the story, baby, and see what happens."
"But they can't hurt him," she replied, sounding so much like her mother it almost made him spoil the ending.
"Trust me, Annie."
"Okay." Her simple answer as her green eyes looked up at him so trustingly made him feel like a million bucks.
"And then a strange thing happened. For where the tear had fallen, a flower grew. And out of it there stepped a fairy. She kissed the little Rabbit on his nose.
"I am the nursery magic Fairy," She said. "I take care of all the playthings that the children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don't need them anymore, I come and take them away with me and turn them into Real."
"I knew it, Daddy. I knew they couldn't let him burn."
"That's right, poppet," Spike agreed as he cupped her small face in his hand and gently brushed his thumb across her baby soft cheek before continuing with the story.
"Wasn't I Real before?" asked the little Rabbit.
"You were Real to the Boy," the Fairy said, "because he loved you. Now you shall be real to everyone."
And she held the little Rabbit close in her arms and flew him into the wood.
In the open glade the wild rabbits danced with their shadows.
The Fairy kissed the little Rabbit again and put him down on the grass.
"Run and play, little Rabbit!" she said.
But the little Rabbit sat quite still. He did not know that when the Fairy kissed him that last time she had changed him altogether.
He might have sat there a long time if just then something hadn't tickled his nose, and he lifted his hind leg to scratch it. And he found that he actually had hind legs! Instead of dingy velveteen, he had brown fur, soft and shiny, and his ears twitched by themselves.
He gave one leap and the joy of using those hind legs was so great he went springing about…jumping sideways and whirling round as the others did…and he grew so excited that when he did stop to look for the Fairy she was gone.
He was a Real Rabbit at last, at home with the other rabbits."
Spike looked over to see his little one was having a hard time holding her eyes open. Again, he couldn't help but compare himself with the Rabbit in the story. But watching Anne's eyes grow big brought him back to the here and now.
"Finish the story, Daddy."
"As you wish, poppet."
"Autumn passed, and winter, and in the spring the Boy went out to play in the wood. While he was playing, two rabbits crept out from the bracken and peeped at him.
One of them was golden brown all over, but the other had strange markings under his fur, as though long ago he had been spotted. And about his little soft nose and round black eyes there was something familiar, so the Boy thought to himself: "Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!"
But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to be Real."
Spike closed the book and scooted down in the bed so he was lying face to face with his Anne. She moved so their nose was touching and wiggled her nose against his. It was custom for them to share bunny kisses, something Buffy showed them a long time ago.
"Daddy, do you think Mr. Gordo is real?"
"Of course I do, pumpkin."
"Will the nursery Fairy come and make him a real pig when I grow up?"
"Depends if you decided to let him go, or keep him for when you have a little girl to give him to."
"I'm sleepy now."
"I love you, Daddy," Anne said while yawning.
"And I love you, too. Now, sweet dreams, and I'll see you in the morning."
Spike kissed her cute little nose and then her forehead. Carefully, he slipped from the bed and smiled as he watched his precious gift snuggle into the covers, hugging her stuffed pig close. He could hear her whisper.
"To me, you're real."
With that picture of his daughter forever planted in his memory, he turned to leave. He had someone else he needed to spend time with before calling it a night. Before joining his wife, he stepped into his son's room to admire his and Buffy's handiwork work on creating another beautiful miracle.
He watched as the infant lay sleeping so peacefully and wondered if he was dreaming when he noticed how the baby smiled in his sleep. He again thought on the story he'd just read to Anne. He felt like the Rabbit who became real, and instead of the Boy, it was the Girl who made this all possible.
"I thought I'd find you here," Buffy said from the doorway.
Spike turned to her and said, "I don't deserve all of this and will cherish it all the days I'm alive."
"Come to bed, William, so I can cherish you in return. Not for a night, but for the rest of my life."
Spike loved it when she called him William, for he knew it meant she no longer thought him beneath her. She would use both names, and tell him it was because she accepted him and his past, as he accepted hers. Over the years, they learned to talk and to listen to each other.
Spike met her at the door with a smirk that told her she was his forever. Trusting he would always catch her, she jumped up in to his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.
"You know, if you where still a vamp, I'd offer you my neck for the ravaging," she teased.
Spike's evil chuckle sent tingles all over her body. His hands grabbed her bottom, guiding her womanly curves to fit with his crotch. She could feel how ready he was for her as she ground against him wantonly.
"I'm yours, Master Vampire," she whispered in his ear.
"Damn straight, you are," he replied as he carried her off to their bedroom to show her just how much they belonged to each other.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I wish to thank Margery Williams for the wonderful story The Velveteen Rabbit, for which inspired this story.