He missed the city. The bright lights and fast action of L.A. felt like a distant memory as he walked the streets of the suburbs. Nothing here was exciting. Nothing here was fun. There was nothing but row upon row of houses and happy families with mini-vans. Sparkle-faced pixies that laughed and cried and not a one to take.
He stared out into the softly lit street and inhaled deeply, taking in unneeded oxygen as he watched the activity around him. The sounds of laughter were everywhere. Every street he strolled was the same. Houses decorated with smiling jack-o-lanterns with glowing eyes sat on every porch. Mounds of straw and scarecrows littered the lawns and every house had some smiling person waiting at the door with treats that guaranteed sugar-induced dreams. Demons the size of dwarfs ran the streets in colorful costumes and even though they weren't real demons his irritation at them was the same. Smiling, happy faces ran from door to door and more than once one of the tiny creatures had seen him and stopped to stare at him with wide eyes. A throaty growl and a flash of fang would send them screaming on their way and he couldn't help but grin at the sight.
His mood had been foul since he stepped foot out of the small house he and Drucilla had been calling home. Of all the nights to be out, Dru practically demanded this one. This was supposed to be his night off. This was the one night he just got to - be. Halloween was the only night of the year that demons let the humans have. Or at least it was supposed to be. Not everyone thought as he did. Drucilla was one of them. She had spent the better part of the day babbling about sugar-coated gumdrops and as he stood on the sidewalk and watched the activity around him, he knew now what she meant. Every little demon that passed him reeked of it. It practically oozed from their pores. The sweet smell of chocolate and sugar was everywhere.
He sighed as he once again started walking. Drucilla had warned him not to come back without one of the little buggers and who was he to deny his princess anything? The past two hours had been spent hunting. Hunting that one child that didn't have an adult glued to its side. So far he hadn't found anything. Sure he could just snatch one up but having a screaming demon fight him all the way back to the lair wasn't his idea of fun. Not to mention the attention he drew to himself wouldn't be his friend either.
As he made his way to the end of the street his luck finally changed. Standing there all alone was one tiny morsel looking as lost as they came. Her head bobbed from side to side as she looked in every direction and he smiled as he let his human mask slip back into place. As he approached her she turned and looked at him. The minute she did he cursed his luck. Big green eyes that glittered with unshed tears sparkled in the dim light of the streetlight. The black witch's hat she wore covered most of the blonde hair he could see streaming across her shoulders and what little of her face wasn't covered in shadow seemed to look almost angelic. As he slowed his steps he couldn't help but take in the sound of her accelerated heartbeat. She was scared.
"Hey nibblet, you lost?" Those tear-soaked eyes turned to him and in that instant Spike knew this was going to go bottoms up.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she said, her voice low and straining with tears.
Spike looked around him and noticed they were practically alone. He smiled as he looked back down at her. "Well that's a very smart rule," he smiled. "But I can't very well help you if you won't talk to me."
She was studying him. The look she gave him was almost unnerving. It made his skin crawl as she practically stared a hole clean through him. She sighed heavily before speaking. "I can't find Tammy. She was taking me to the houses with her brother," she said as her voice strained. "Mommy's going to be so mad at me."
Spike could only watch in horror as the fair-haired demon started crying. Tears the size of his thumbnail slid down her face in rapid succession and he was at a loss for words. What was he suppose to do now? Just grab her and run his demon taunted.ÿ He sighed before bending to one knee and tilting her chin up with his finger. "What's your name, ducks?"
A small sniffle followed by a tiny smile met his eyes before she looked at him with a sense of hope. "Buffy."
"Buffy?" Spike said as he grinned. "That's not your real name, is it?"
The smile vanished and he saw her eyes harden before her shoulders stiffened and her chin thrust out defiantly. "Yes. Its Buffy Ann Summers and it's a nice name. My mommy said so."
Spike couldn't help but chuckle at her. She was four-foot nothing and came across as a wounded rabbit with tiger claws. Apparently he wasn't the only one to question the ridiculous name. "Okay, Buffy," he grinned. "I'm sorry I upset you."
Buffy looked at him for a long minute before the smile returned and she raised a hand to wipe at the tears on her face. "What's your name?"
Spike thought hard before smiling. "It's William," he told her.
"My teacher's name is William."
"Is that right?" Spike smiled as she grinned at him.
"Uh-huh," Buffy said. "He's got black hair though."
"Well just between me and you, this isn't my real color."
Buffy's smile widened before looked up at his hair. "My mommy colors her hair too but it's not white."
Spike gave her a little laugh as her face practically beamed. The tears were gone and a bright smile covered her face. He knew in that instant that he had made his first mistake in years. He not only talked to his victim like they were more than just a meal, but he enjoyed it. This tiny girl had been his undoing and he knew he wouldn't be able to take her to Dru as a midnight snack. He wouldn't be able to hand her over and watch Dru suck the life from her. He had always liked kids. Not that he would tell anyone. Big Bad, remember? His smile fell away before he stood and sighed heavily.
"Can you walk me home?"
It felt like a knife to the gut when she spoke and when she grabbed his hand he cursed himself for being such a poof. One glance down at her pretty little face and he knew. He knew without a doubt that he'd help her.
She lived four blocks over and as they approached the house, Spike noticed the lack of lights inside. The street was full of trick-or-treaters but this house looked deserted. As Buffy led him by the hand to the porch she looked up at him when they stopped in front of the door.
"Daddy keeps the key up there," she said, pointing above the door.
"Are your parents home?" He asked as he looked down at her.
"No," she said. "They had a party at my daddy's work. That's why Tammy took me with her."
"I see," Spike said as he debated on what to do. He looked around to see if anyone was watching before reaching up above the door. As he felt the key under his fingers he asked himself again what he was doing.
"They said they wouldn't be gone long," Buffy said.
Spike nodded his head at her as he stuck the key in the lock. He once again looked around him at the surrounding houses. Surely someone was paying attention. As he heard the locks click, he looked down at Buffy's smiling face before opening the door. "Well, there you go, kitten."
Buffy darted into the house once the door swung open and her bag of goodies was slinging back and forth as she rushed in before she threw it on the first available surface and turned to him. "You can come in," she said as she turned to face him.
Spike closed his eyes the minute the words left her mouth. Apparently she didn't see him as a threat. Stupid girl his demon laughed. The smile on her face was back and he sighed heavily as he debated on what to do. Dru would be wondering why he was taking so long and if he waited much longer, all the munchkins would be tucked safely away from all the things that go bump in the night.
He watched as Buffy darted off into another room and he heard the television click on. What was he supposed to do now? He couldn't just leave her alone, could he? She couldn't be more than six-years-old. Not nearly old enough to take care of herself. But why did he have to do it? He wasn't a babysitter. He was a monster. A monster that an angelic, trusting child just invited into her house. He raised his hand, smiling, when he wasn't met with the skin tingling barrier that would normally keep him out. He wasn't even aware he had crossed the threshold until Buffy bounced back into the room.
"The Great Pumpkin is on," she squealed happily before running to him and grabbing his hand. He barely even got the door pushed closed before she was pulling him into the other room. "Mommy didn't tell me this was coming on."
"Maybe she didn't want you to be disappointed if you missed it," Spike said as Buffy pulled him down to the sofa. He looked around the room, taking in the various pieces of art and knew that whoever Buffy's parents were did very well for themselves. If he couldn't take Buffy back to Drucilla then maybe a nice trinket would do.
They both sat silently as the cartoon played and more than once Spike caught Buffy looking up at him. A permanent smile was plastered on her face and she was still wearing her costume. The hat almost swallowed her entire head and he couldn't help but smile at her. She was cute. He could admit it. But no one else would ever hear it. He had a reputation to uphold, after all. As they watched the children's program together Spike was lost in the story. Not once had he ever taken the time to actually watch one of the colorful shows. His tastes were geared more toward the bloody and violent. As the picture changed and a commercial covered the screen, Spike watched as Buffy darted from the couch and ran out of the room. He had enough time to ask himself again what he was doing and where she had run off to only to see her return a moment later with her sack of goodies.
"I got lots of good stuff this year," Buffy said as she jumped back up on the couch and rummaged through her bag. Chocolates in every variety were spilled into her lap and Spike was surprised when she held her hand out to him.
"What?" He asked.
"It's candy," Buffy said as she looked at him. "You eat it."
Spike reached out taking the miniature candy bar as Buffy opened one of her own. She munched happily on it as she looked up at him before she finally turned back to the TV. The longer he sat the more restless he became. What was he doing here? What did this girl want from him?
They sat throughout the entire program and it didn't take long before Spike was happily helping Buffy with her mound of chocolate. He knew she'd be sick by morning but that wasn't his fault, was it? He was just the demon who couldn't take her to meet her death. He wasn't a babysitter. Not his problem.
When the credits rolled on the TV Buffy slide off the couch amongst a mound of candy wrappers. Her faced was smeared with candy and he couldn't help but smile at the dazed look in her eyes. It would serve her parents right to be up with her all night. He was almost sure she'd be wired for hours now.
"Are you thirsty?"
Spike was brought out of his thoughts by her voice and her smile was almost blinding. He grinned at her before shaking his head. "No, I'm fine."
"Oh," Buffy said almost disappointed.
"Do you want something?"
Her face lit up. "Yeah! But I can't make it by myself," she said. "I know how but I can't touch the stove. Mommy's orders."
"Well, your mum sounds like a smart lady," Spike said. "Come on. Let's get you your drink."
A glass of water, he could do. A cold soda, he could do. This? He wasn't so sure of. He had listened to every direction Buffy gave him and as he stirred the pot of milk on the stove he kept a watchful eye on the little girl that had wormed her way into his heart in less than an hour.
What would the others say if they knew he was playing nanny to a six-year-old? He sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time that night as he removed the pot when Buffy instructed him to and carefully filled each mug. Apparently she had watched her mother do this many times because he still wasn't sure what he was doing. When he placed the mugs on the kitchen table and watched as Buffy reached into a bag of tiny, white fluffy marshmallows he glanced at the clock on the wall.
"Okay," Buffy smiled. "All done now."
"What is it?" Spike asked her as she leaned back in her seat.
"Its hot chocolate, silly," she giggled. "Its good."
Spike watched her take a slow sip from her mug before she put it back down. Her upper lip was coated in chocolate and white foam from the melting marshmallows and he raised one eyebrow at her as she looked at him.
"Aren't you going to try it?" She asked.
Spike smiled at her before taking a deep breath and picking up the mug. The hot liquid warmed him instantly and the sweet taste of it surprised him. The chocolate bars had been good but this was even better.
"You can't drink it fast," Buffy said.
Spike looked over the rim of his mug when she spoke before pulling it away from his lips. "Why not?"
"Cause it's too hot," Buffy told him "You have to sip it slow, like this."
He watched her as she demonstrated the proper way to drink the chocolate and once again, the white foamy mustache stuck to her lip. She licked it clean as she smiled before reaching for the bag of the little white fluffers and popped a few in her mouth.
"These are good too," she said as she chewed a mouth full. "They're sweet like candy."
Spike smiled as she pushed the bag toward him and he reached inside and grabbed a handful. She was right. They were light and fluffy and tasted like candy. They were almost better than the chocolate. As they both sat and consumed the bag of marshmallows Spike once again glanced at the clock. His time was running out and he ran a hand through his hair wondering what to do.
A sound something like a weak growl turned his attention back to Buffy and he grinned at what she saw. Two tiny marshmallows were attached to her teeth like miniature fangs and her hands were curled into claws as she looked at him. "What is that supposed to be?"
"A vampire," she said in a low, growling voice.
He tried not to, but he couldn't help it. What started out as a slow chuckle turned into a full out howling laugh that made his side ache as he looked at her. She continued to growl and hiss and the more noise she made the harder he laughed. Her smile was huge and as she finally dislodged the "fangs" from her teeth and chewed them happily before swallowing them
"Were you scared?" She asked.
"Oh yes," Spike grinned. "That was probably the scariest thing I've seen in - well forever."
Buffy beamed up at him before taking another sip of her cocoa. "Do you think monsters are real?"
Spike's smile faded some as he looked at her before he smiled to cover his reaction to her question. "Real monsters or the marshmallow monsters?"
Buffy giggled. "Real monsters."
"Hmm. Hard to say really," he lied.
"Carrie said monsters were real."
"Who is Carrie?"
"She's a girl in my school," Buffy told him. "She said she saw a real monster."
Her eyes were wide as she told him all about the monster Carrie had seen and from the sounds of it, Carrie had in fact seen a monster. Not that he was going to let Buffy know any different. No need in scaring her this early in life. She had years of laughs ahead of her before she found out what really lurked in the dark. The marshmallow kind was good enough for now.
As the clock on the wall chimed eleven, Spike stiffened as he heard the front door open. He glanced at Buffy before she grinned and jumped from her chair and ran. The sound of feet coming toward the kitchen drew him from his chair and a quick glance at the back door was all he managed before the kitchen was invaded with what Spike assumed by Buffy's mother. A set of startled wide eyes met his and he had never felt so trapped. Her accelerated heartbeat seemed to deafen him before Buffy's cheerful voice broke the silence.
"This is William," she said as she looked up at her mother. "He walked me home when I lost Tammy."
The woman stared at him for a few minutes before turning her attention back to Buffy. "Buffy, what did mommy tell you about strangers?" She asked quietly.
"I know," Buffy said softly. "But I didn't know what to do."
Spike could see the tears once again filling Buffy's eyes and he wanted to run. He couldn't stand there and watch as she cried again. "Well, since you're home I guess I better be on my way."
Buffy's mother looked back up at him as he spoke and she forced a smile to her face as she stared at him. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm not used to walking into my home and finding a complete stranger with my daughter."
"I understand," Spike said. "Not something I do everyday myself." She looked a lot like Buffy when she smiled and he could only imagine what a grown-up Buffy would look like.
"I'm Joyce," she said, walking the short distance to him and holding out her hand. "Thank you for bringing her home."
He was slightly shocked by the smile now gracing her face. "It's nice to meet you, Joyce."
Joyce looked around the kitchen and smiled at the mess that now littered her cabinets. The remnants of a hot chocolate spree that she was sure Buffy practically begged for was left for her to clean but for once she didn't mind.
"Is daddy coming home?"
Joyce smiled down at her daughter before inhaling deeply. "Yes sweetie. He'll be home soon," she said. "Now why don't you tell William goodnight so we can get you into bed. It's way past your bedtime."
"But I'm not sleepy," Buffy whined.
"I'm sure you're not," Joyce grinned as she looked at her daughter's chocolate-covered face. "But you still have to go to bed."
Buffy frowned before her shoulders slumped and she turned to look at Spike. He was still standing by the table and she gave him a smile before walking across the room and grabbing the bag of marshmallows. "We have lots more of these," she said as she handed the bag to him. "But you can take this one that way you can still make the monsters."
Spike smiled down at her before reaching out and taking the bag from her. "Thank you, Buffy," he said. Another bright smile was thrown his way before she waved and walked back to her mother. "Well, I guess I better be going."
Joyce watched him as he turned and walked to the door. She had one hand on Buffy's shoulder and cursed her husband for the tenth time that night. The one time he was actually needed at home he was too busy. As usual.
Spike felt his shoulders relax the minute the cool autumn air hit him and he walked quickly from the house. The streets were practically deserted and he sighed as he looked down the street. Drucilla was going to stake him. Hours away from the lair and all he had to show for it was a bag of confections. He smiled as he looked at the bag of marshmallows and chuckled as he remembered Buffy. "Marshmallow monsters," he mumbled to himself before shaking his head and laughing.
As he headed back home, Spike tucked the bag in his pocket as he tried to figure out what to tell Dru. He was sure tales of chocolate and The Great Pumpkin wouldn't do. He hardly believed it himself. The "big bad" had been reduced to a babysitter for a green-eyed ankle biter named Buffy. "Bloody ridiculous name," he chuckled.
As he reached the end of Buffy's street he glanced back and gave her house one last look before starting down the sidewalk. His eyes lit up as he saw the young brunette quickly walking his way. She wasn't as young as what Drucilla wanted but still fresh enough to be considered. Her face was etched with worry and he smiled as he drew closer to her and she looked up at him.
"Hey. I'm looking for a little girl," she said quickly. "Blonde - dressed like a witch."
Spike cocked his head to one side as he looked at her. "This girl have a name?"
"Yeah," she said. "Her name is Buffy. I - kind of lost her."
"I see," Spike smiled. This had to be Buffy's adult supervision for the evening. "I assume you're Tammy?"
Her eyes lit up as he spoke and she smiled before nodding her head. "Yeah," she said. "How did you know that?"
"A little duck told me," he smiled as he looked at her. So she wasn't the sugar-coated gumdrop Drucilla had asked for but beggars couldn't be choosy, now could they? Besides, it would serve the girl right. A number of monsters could have taken Buffy while Tammy was out doing lord know what. She may have lost Buffy for the evening but she unwillingly saved her life too. Karma really was a wicked bitch.