Hello, All(

Well, here begins Book Six of the Peacemaker Chronicles. That ficlet that keeps on giving. I never planned for it to go this far, but here it is. I owe those of you that have read and given me comments since the beginning, many, many thanks. The story would have stopped long ago were it not for you.

As many of you know, I lost my grandfather on Thursday. We were very close and it has been a hard week for me. I asked my list which they would rather I do; release what I have written with no guarantees of when I could release more, or wait until I could put out a few chapters a week. The only answer I received was release now. So, here we go.

Because of my personal circumstances, I cannot say, with all certainty, when the chapters will be released. I *can* tell you that there will be one more before Christmas and probably yet another later next week. But bear with me. I do have family needs, and emotional ups and downs, to contend with. I do promise, however, that I will not give up on the story. I will see it through until it is done.

With all that said, welcome to Book Six. I could use some reviews right now. Something else to think about. So, if you read this on ff.net, please review. If you read it on BAPS or AE, let me know what you think. Some feedback would really help my day.

Again, thank you all for your kindness throughout this story. I would not, nor could I, do this without you.

*Cheery Vibes*, Nimue

"As sick as it sounds, in my little head, there's a little Sunnydale, and a widdle Buffy, and a widdle Spike, and Spike wubs Buffy." James Marsters 14 July 2002.

PS - Joyous Yule to those who are celebrating.

Title: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Chapter One of The One)

Author: Nimue

Rating: PG -13

Pairing Buffy/Spike. Most major characters included.

Feedback: Yes, please

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Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, Fox... Just Borrowing. (With, of course, the exception of Emma and William, who belong to Buffy and Spike)

Summary: Welcome to the beginning of Book Six of the Peacemaker Chronicles. This book is set about 2 1/2 years after the ending of Book Five, which puts us in about December of 2008.

Just to give you a little timeline of the Peacemaker story to date, which I had to do anyway to start up again, here are some dates of major events. This story breaks AU after Normal Again, in April 2002. In Book One, Buffy finds out that she is pregnant with Emma. Emma is then born in Book Two in what would be October 2002 (the date being 10/29/02). William was born in Book Five when Emma was three, which makes his birthday 05/30/06. In the meantime, a few other additions to the Scooby fold have come into being. River Harris, daughter of Takina and Xander born 03/9/07 and Randolph (aka Randy) Giles (yes, you got that right), son of Rupert and Anya, who insisted on the name, on 11/25/07. This story is then set in December 2008. Buffy and Spike have been together for six years and hand fasted for two (August 2006). They live in the same house on Revello. Dawn is a junior in college and lives on campus, although is home during the holidays. Xander and Takina are married. Officially. Giles and Anya are not. But they do their own thing. She sort of decided that the dress was too much anyway.

Things have been relatively quiet in Sunnydale since the last round with evil in Book Five. Just the run of the mill apocalypses. But Emma has been left alone. That is until now. Not to mention that the One, the thing that mystically binds Buffy and Spike, has suddenly intensified. What happens to them is not what is supposed to happen. It is something manipulated by outside forces. But what are they? And will they be able to make things right before everything crumbles again?

Welcome back to Sunnydale. Christmas Eve 2008....

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

"Emma, stop that, all right? Will, leave River alone," Spike huffed, walking behind a wake of destruction leading to a Christmas tree. He was calm now. Composed. Through the momentary lapse which almost had his fist through a wall and four very small children in varying states of humanity locked in a closet until roughly their eighteenth birthdays.

What in the bloody hell were the lot of them thinking depositing all their rug rats here while they finished shopping? Spike wondered as he pulled William off the side of a playpen containing the youngest member of the brood, Randy. Nice touch of humour there, Spike thought. Even more amusing was the love his life deciding that it was a good idea to leave him alone with them all while she ran to the store to get last minute food for tomorrow's supper. Something he had already done once today. Buffy just wanted to escape the real horror. Four children, high on sugar and Santa and more tenacious than any demon he had ever met.

"Daddy, daddy, daddy," Emma chanted, running circles around his legs, William chasing her on wobbly ones. Spike tried to grab him before he stumbled like a punch-drunk fighter after a match, but he missed and his son tripped, falling over River in a heap. He began to cry. River began to wail. Randy just gurgled to himself in his little pen. Emma continued to blaze through the house, dancing and singing and being generally annoying. Spike could feel his head about to explode.

"That's it!" Spike boomed, grabbing Emma's wrist as she darted past and settling her gently on the couch. He leaned down, picking up William and depositing him next to her. River sobbed, her huge eyes the size of saucers at the sound of Spike's voice. He just picked her up and held her. Randy gurgled some more.

"I've had about enough of this lot," Spike continued. Emma stared at him with big wet eyes, her lip trembling. William looked up reaching towards his father and trying not to cry. River still wailed.

"Give," William muttered, reaching up at Spike. Spike raised an eyebrow and looked at the boy. William was dressed in his favourite outfit, or at least Dawn's favourite outfit for him. Black jeans and a black t-shirt with his hair combed back off of his face. Buffy had tried to coerce a Christmas sweater over the boy, but he peeled it off within seconds.

"What is it, Will?" Spike asked, crouching down in front of the couch. William leaned forward and touched River's arm.

"Give," he repeated.

Spike loosed the wailing girl from his arms and sat her down next to William. Will wrapped his arm around her and looked back up at Spike, her crying stopping almost immediately. Again, Spike raised an eyebrow. "Oh, Harris is going to love this," he muttered to himself.

"Daddy?" Emma said, her teeth still firmly gripping her lip.

Spike melted like he always did when looking at her. She was the spitting image of her mum, save for the colour of the eyes. Long blonde hair. Big doe eyes. Pretty pouty coral lips and a little girl halo around her as if she could do no wrong. "What, Mite?" Spike asked, his voice now soft and full of love. He was usually the more patient with his kids. But today had been a whole new level of excitement and both Emma and Will were now old enough to understand it.

"I'm sorry," Emma said. "I'm just 'cited, is all," she muttered, her eyes ready to spill over.

Spike looked at the floor, guilt crashing over him. They were kiddies, for Heavens sake. Christmas is the real gig. Sort of like the good Apocalypse for tots. "S'alright," Spike answered, pulling her off the couch and scooping her into his arms. "Just got the better of me a bit, is all." She blinked at him, blue eyes flashing apologies like a neon sign. "You think you can be good if I let you and your lot down again? You're the oldest. You're in charge."

Emma looked at him, proud as a peacock that she was the one in charge of the rest. "Yes, Daddy."

Spike set her softly on the floor. "Go on, then." He leaned down to the couch and lifted William onto the floor and held him there until his wobbly legs steadied, then set him loose like a colt on a racetrack. Slowly, he lifted River to the floor, gently setting her out of the way of the galloping hordes. There was nothing he could do. The sinister attraction of Santa and his minions were too much for wee folk to resist. He slumped into the couch, watching their quiet play degenerate into screaming, singing, and destruction within three minutes. Honestly, he was surprised they had lasted that long.

The front door opened with a creak. Had to fix that, Spike added to the mental checklist of things undermining his formerly potent mysteries. Now he spent more time fixing things and potty training and walking dogs and tots than fighting evil. He couldn't even remember *being* evil. It was sort of like a very blonde, very light Addams family. Somewhere, he knew he loved this life a million times more than anything he had before.

A chuckle came from the open door. Followed by a full out giggle. Slowly, Spike lifted his weary head and eyed her standing there, a brown paper bag clutched to her hip. Her face was so beautiful, her smile the size of the room. "Don't know what you find so 'musing, Pet," Spike sighed, his head still propped on his hand.

Buffy laughed again, walking towards him and setting the bag on the side table. "Oh, nothing," she taunted, flopping down next to him on the couch.

Spike glared at her, blue eyes throwing phantom daggers. "No, Love. What is it that you want to say?"

She sidled in next to him, her breath caressing his ear. "My big bad. My fearless warrior. My tireless lover. And you've been conquered by four little kids." She nipped the shell of his ear as the final word slipped from her lips. It was everything she could do to avoid giggling again.

He had to contain a smile. "They're a right dastardly lot, Pet. Not a one is fully human. Demons all, they are," Spike complained half heartedly as his hand found her knee and slid up the length of her graceful thigh. She shuddered, melting closer to him. "Seems I've got a handle on you though, doesn't it?"

"Ummm," she hummed, kissing his cheek. "This is what got us to a room full of little terrors to begin with."

"True," he chuckled, turning his face to kiss her sweet, bubblegum lips. She tasted of roses and sugar and peppermint. Always beautiful. "But, despite their rousing rendition of tear the house down, I think it has been worth it." His breath tickled her mouth as he spoke, making her smile against him.

"Ummhumm," Buffy hummed, letting her fingers trace the soft hairs on the back of his neck. "Worth it."

Spike felt it thrum through him like the greatest power in existence. His love for her. His desire. It had never faded. Not one iota. If anything, it just got bigger, more powerful, every second of their lives. There was nothing he ever wanted, ever needed, that he couldn't find in her. In them. His mouth found hers again, her palms moving to cups his cheeks.

"Eeewww," Emma giggled, standing on the opposite side of the coffee table, little hands on little hips.

A chorus of giggles rose from the three eldest, the fourth just gurgling in the background. Spike turned his head, shooting the mock evil eye at his daughter. "Eww, what?" He growled.

"You're *kissing*," she taunted, shifting her weight onto one hip.

"So?" Spike answered, indignantly. "What's it to you, Mite?"

Buffy smiled at the exchange, watching Emma search for a comeback. She was pretty sharp nowadays, and had a much greater idea of the love her parents had for each other. That is expressly why they had moved her bedroom from adjacent to theirs to the furthest room away. After being confronted about certain noises in their bedroom, Spike was inclined to prevent having to make up another story about fighting off the dreaded grunting beast of Valhalla.

"It's *gross*," Emma finally countered. "Kissing, kissing, kissing," she chanted, dancing around the room.

"Kissin'" William chimed in.

Buffy shook her head, pushing herself off the couch. "That's enough," she said, trying to hide the smile. "I'm allowed to kiss your daddy."

"Worked hard enough for it," Spike mumbled, trying not to just stare at Buffy's backside as she stood in front of him. She was perfect. Everything about her.

Buffy turned her head and smiled. "Later," she winked. She turned back towards the brood. "Emma, come with me. We're going to make cookies. Will, you need to go walk Pony with your dad. Spike," she continued, her voice dropping from general mode to lover mode. "If you help me get River into the playpen with Randy and move it into the kitchen, you can go off and do the manly bonding thing for a while. Just be home in time for supper."

Spike smiled at her. Even when it was just over kid juggling, he loved it when she got her commanding attitude. Reminded him of some of the more interesting things that they had done without the wee ones around. "Anything you wish, Pet."

Buffy smiled back at him. A smile full of promises and love and desire. "I have a little early present for you later. If you're good."

Spike stood, all lean muscle and marble statue good looks. "Aren't I always, Love?"

A sly grin spread across her face. "Later," she whispered, leaning in to kiss him. "Now go do big bad dad things."

*****

"Well ain't that a pisser?" Luke sighed, stepping back from the form crumpled and chained to the wall. "We just can't seem to maker her evil."

Draconius sighed, blowing a smoke ring from his pipe. "Of course not, you ninny," he complained. "Don't they teach you anything in the lesser hell dimensions?"

"Hey!" The indignance on Luke's face was tinged with hurt. "We may only be the human Hell, but I think we do pretty well on the evil and torture and other fun stuff," he continued. "I mean, trapping souls in rocks is..."

"Child's play," Draconius answered. He prowled the room like a cat, the decimated woman staring up at him with flickering eyes. For years she had been here. For years she had been tortured. But they couldn't win. Wouldn't. She would not let them.

"She is a creature of Heaven," Draconius continued. "One that had been in the realm of goodness in both her human and otherworldly lives. We cannot make her soul fundamentally evil."

"Can we take it then?" Luke quipped, almost jumping for joy.

Draconius thought a moment. "Possibly temporarily. But the Powers up above own it. We could not truly possess it." The fanged man rubbed his chin as he paced as if the gesture was necessary for thought. "But what we *could* do is steal it for a while. Just harness it until the little Heavenly beasties figure out what we have done and give it back. It might buy us enough time." The wheels turned inside the creature's head.

Luke frowned. "But if we steal her essence for even a little while, that just means she's devoid of humanity. Doesn't make her fire and brimstone, let-the-good-times-roll-evil."

Draconius shot his counterpart a frustrated glance. The leader of this hell dimension was like a well dressed, handsome, annoying Chihuahua on crack. "No," Draconius drew out. "But were we to, help her along."

"Ooh!" Luke chirped. "How?" He danced around the room in his red three- piece suit, happy at the thought of causing even an evil itch on the human realm.

"Can your smiths forge an amulet, a charm?" Draconius asked.

Luke quirked a brow. "Hello! Hell God! They can do whatever I tell them to do." The indignance was back. Luke might be out for a good time, but he wasn't a moron.

"Good," Draconius said, softly. "Have them form a bracelet. With one charm. The mark of the dragon. When it is prepared, I will have my Witch bespell it. Fill it with all we want done."

The Hell God clapped his hands together joyously, and then stopped in his tracks. "And what exactly *is* that?"

Again, Draconius sighed. This would be a tenuous alliance at best. "To throw the balance of the essence of the One into oblivion and take advantage of their weakness to procure Peace."

"Oh," Luke answered, nodding. "You know, she was here. That vanilla- smelling little vixen. The Peacemonger or whatever she goes by."

"The Peacemaker, you git," Draconius shouted, slapping Luke on the back of his head. "And I am aware of this. You let her go. Your *incompetence* is what let her ride out of here with the Slayer and become the most well protected bit of Prophesy in all existence."

Luke grimaced at the thought. "Oh, right," he said. The handsome, devilish smile returned quickly though. "Can't win 'em all."

Draconius turned his eyes from Luke, watching the crumpled form on the wall. "Just go. I want the amulet in the next few hours."

"I think I am the reigning God here," Luke snapped, crossing his arms across his broad chest. The look in Draconius' eyes made even him shudder. "But as I agree with the plan, I'll be off to go have an amulet made."

*****

"Are you sure you want to do this tomorrow, Buffy?" Takina asked, taking River from Buffy's outstretched arms. The toddler cooed and grabbed her mother's hair, kissing her wildly on the cheek. "I mean, having us all here."

Buffy chuckled. "What, we can handle an Apocalypse, but we can't handle Christmas dinner?"

"Something like that," Takina answered, looking over Buffy's head and watching Spike get hog tied and bounced on by his own children as they chirped happily about what Santa might bring.

Buffy followed Takina's eyes and smiled again as Spike grabbed William with one escaped wrist and pulled the giggling boy into his lap. It was like watching a lion play with his cubs. "It'll be fine. Be here around ... one?"

The Doctor smiled warmly. "We'll be here. Will the rest be coming as well?"

"The whole gaggle of them," Buffy joked. "Actually, I think Willow and Tara are staying here tonight. They offered to baby-sit while we patrol and I think that they really feel like they're missing out a bit since we all..."

Takina frowned softly, her pretty face conveying concern in way that Buffy found fascinating. She was a great doctor. And a good friend. Her body language was almost as telling as her words. "Kids," Takina continued for Buffy. "They have options, you know?"

Buffy sighed, leaning a hip against the open door. "I know. I think they just have to decide what they want and we'll help them any way we can." She looked at Spike a long, lusty moment and corrected herself. "Well, almost any way."

Takina laughed. "I think that is more my concern than yours," she joked. "But we are family. Whatever it takes."

"Whatever it takes," Buffy agreed, kissing River's cheek softly. "See you later, little girl."

"Affer Sanna," River answered, putting a chubby palm on Buffy's cheek.

As Takina turned to leave, Willow and Tara started up the stairs hand in hand, grinning as they always were. "Hi, there," Willow said waving. "Ready for the rescue?"

Buffy chuckled. "Yeah, I just have to untie Spike. See ya, Takina."

Takina waved from the walkway, calling out her goodbye. "Untie Spike?" Tara questioned, coming in the door. Emma and William were now running a rope around him, giggling insanely. Spike was pretending to be completely defeated. It brought back fond memories of holidays past.

"Ready to patrol?" Buffy asked, walking into the living room. "Or has your butt been whooped enough for one night?" She stood, an amused smile playing on her lips. Spike looked at her, seeing what lie beneath the amusement. A sly, sultry little grin, full of wicked little thoughts. They really didn't need to patrol tonight. Not much going on in Sunnydale and most people were indoors and out of danger. Something else was on his girl's mind.

"Think I might need a bit of rescuing first, Pet, but after that, ready for a little rough and tumble," he answered, the same sly wickedness purring underneath his words. Tara blushed, peeling William off of him.

"So, this is going to be a longish patrol?" Willow asked, grabbing a giggling Emma as Buffy untied him. Part of Buffy kind of liked him all trussed up like her very own Christmas prezzie. But that was for later.

"Don't wait up," Buffy answered, pulling Spike to his feet. "Do you mind?"

"No!" Tara answered, dancing around the room, holding William as if she was waltzing with the smallest partner at the ball. "Not at all. Our pleasure."

"A few hours alone with that lot might change your tune," Spike chuckled, tossing Buffy her jacket and passing the weapons chest without a second look. He wasn't going to need a stake or an axe for tonight's battle. That was something he knew in his bones. The thought made him shudder with delight.

Willow smiled, tickling Emma. "Go! Be off into the night you fierce warriors of goodness you," she joked. "Before I change my mind."

"Right then," Spike said, nodding curtly and swinging open the door. He gestured at Buffy to lead the way. "After you, Love."



to be contd.