When Spike showed up to drive Dawn and Janice to their classmate’s Halloween party, the girls were still upstairs fussing with their hair and makeup and costumes. No big surprise there, Spike thought, as he made himself comfortable on the living room sofa. He’d already checked to make sure there would be parental supervision at the party – not by spying on anyone or listening in, either; he’d knocked on the door of kid’s house several nights earlier and asked the girl’s father for assurance that an adult would be present before he had agreed to drive the Bit and her friend to and from the party. Dawn would probably throw a tantrum if she knew he’d done it, but he wasn’t about to be the one to drop her off with a houseful of unchaperoned teenagers. He’d never hear the end of it from Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies if anything happened. He’d volunteered to sit out of patrol on a night when the rest of them would undoubtedly be busy because someone had to drive Dawn around. Secretly (or maybe not so secretly) he’d rather take on the task of ensuring the Bit’s safety than check out the alleys and side streets staking vamps on a night when they thought there would be easy prey walking around.
Plus, Spike knew what kids that age got up to when no one was looking. He’d seen the so-called costumes that many of the girls Dawn’s age wore, and had shot down several of her choices at the party store before she settled on some Cleopatra getup. It was a bit clingy but unlike many others, didn’t include a ridiculously short skirt or a top that left almost nothing to the imagination. She hadn’t been thrilled, of course, accusing him of being old-fashioned and overprotective and all kinds of other things she thought were unflattering, but he was paying for the damn costume and there was no way he was buying her some skimpy thing that showed everything she had.
Thankfully, the evening seemed to be fairly uneventful. Spike dropped the girls off and reminded them he’d be back to collect them by eleven-thirty so he could have Janice home before her midnight curfew. Pulling away from Janice’s house once he ensured she’d unlocked the front door and gone inside, he proceeded to get the Bit back to her house while listening to her chatter away about how the party was so much fun and that absolutely everyone had been there and of course she and Janice were the only ones with a stupid lame curfew on Halloween. When he’d gotten her into the house and sent her upstairs to get ready for bed, Spike made himself a cup of barely tolerable instant coffee. For him, the night was still young, so he figured he’d meet the others for patrol once Dawn was in bed.
It must have really been his lucky night, Spike thought, when Dawn came downstairs in her pajamas, hair piled on top of her head and face scrubbed clean of makeup. “Thanks for driving us around tonight. Sorry I was whiny about having to come home early”, she said, leaning against the kitchen counter.
“Midnight isn’t early, Niblet, but you’re welcome and don’t worry about it. I think complaining about your curfew is required for all girls your age”, Spike replied with a smile. “Go on to bed now, pet, I’m going to lock all the doors and your sister will be home soon.”
Cracking a huge yawn, she kissed him on the cheek and headed back upstairs. Spike was just getting into his car when he heard a blood-curdling scream from the house he’d just vacated. Without a thought, he was back on the front porch when Dawn came running out of the front door, slamming it shut behind her and still screaming. A quick once-over assured Spike she was uninjured but her heart was beating practically triple-time. Once she realized he was there, she started speaking but was so hysterical he could barely understand a word she said.
“Calm down, now, I can’t make out what you’re saying, please Bit, take a breath”, Spike said, holding her still by her shoulders. It was all he could do to keep from storming into the house and ripping it to shreds until he found what had scared the girl so badly, but he knew the logical course of action was to identify the threat before going after it.
Tears were streaming down her face as she breathed in a few big gulps of air, clearly trying to settle down enough to communicate what was wrong. Her eyes wide and panicked, she finally managed to get out, “Bat…bat, bat, there is. A bat. In. My. Room”, before falling into his arms.
Spike took just a moment to marvel at all the things Dawn had seen and done in her life, the fact that she was seeking safety and comfort in the arms of a vampire, but the sight of a bat in her house had her completely unraveled. Mostly, though, he was just relieved. There was nothing wrong, no attacker in the house, no demon or monster or even a burglar. Just a tiny animal.
“Shhhh”, he whispered, stroking her hair. “It’s all right, Dawn, nothing’s going to hurt you. It didn’t bite you, right?” There was no sign of blood but he wanted to be sure – bats carried rabies, after all, and though they were relatively harmless otherwise, a bite could put Dawn in serious danger.
“No…no, no biting, just…I got in bed and there was this weird sound and I looked up and it was just there, flying in these crazy fast circles by the ceiling, I ran out and closed the door to my room and…and…oh my God Spike, get it out, please, just get it out”, she cried.
“Look, just sit down here on the porch. I don’t know how it got in but I can promise you it doesn’t want to be in your house any more than you want it to be there. I’ll take care of it, won’t be but a minute or two. Stay put, now”, he finished, settling her down on the top step and re-entering the house.
Shaking his head, still feeling relief that his kind of adopted little sister hadn’t been in any real trouble, Spike climbed the stairs and opened the door to Dawn’s room. Easily, he grabbed the flying creature in one hand and resisted the temptation to snap its neck for having frightened Niblet so badly. Instead, he just opened the window, pushed the screen out a little, and let it fly away.
As promised, he was back out onto the porch within minutes, telling Dawn that everything was fine, he’d let the bat out the window and she needed to come back inside. It was late, and a little chilly, and vamps still thought Halloween night was a great time to make a snack or a meal of distracted partygoers. He’d feel better once she was in the house, the door locked securely behind them.
Still shaking a little, Dawn confessed, “I don’t feel sleepy at all anymore, and I don’t think I can go back up there tonight. I’m so freaked out. It’s okay for you to go, I’m just going to sit down here and watch television for a while, maybe sleep on the sofa.”
It was a ridiculous notion, of course. Patrol was already handled, and there was no chance Spike was leaving the girl here alone when she was clearly still so distressed. “Don’t be silly. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll just sit and watch telly with you until your sister gets home, all right?” Dawn put up a token protest about not needing to be babysat but he saw through it immediately. She curled up on the sofa and clicked on the TV, and Spike went into the kitchen to throw a bag of popcorn into the microwave. Because of the date, many of the channels were showing scary movies, so they settled on a Discovery Channel special about some newly-discovered sea life. Before the hour-long documentary was finished, Dawn had fallen asleep with her head on Spike’s shoulder.
He sat patiently, waiting for Buffy and her friends to return and interrogate him. Spike was content, though, knowing the Bit had felt safe enough in his presence to drift off to sleep after having such a scare. It was more than enough to give him a little feeling of satisfaction; the pride of a job well-done.