"Up until the 1940s, many believed that keeping an illegitimate child was a fitting punishment for the mother's sin and a warning to others." —Keith Griffith, Adoption History and Reform in New Zealand

"...the experience of illegitimates makes it clear just how crucial the relationship with the father was for children. Illegitimate children would invent a father figure if they could not have a real one, in part so that they could have an identity--a name--but also to feel wanted by both parents. Illegitimacy in the English Working Class, 1850-1939 Journal of Social History, Winter, 2003, by Ginger Frost

Why bastard? Wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true
As honest madam's issue?

—Wm. Shakespeare, King Lear


The Uninvited Guest

Three days before Christmas, the doorbell rips you out of a sound sleep.

You sit up, automatically reaching for Sorcha in the bassinet by your bed, but your two month old niece is sound asleep, one tiny fist pressed up against her mouth.

The bell rings again, echoing through Giles' cavernous old house in St. John's Wood where you live whenever you aren't on Slayer duty.

Who on earth could it be at this time of night?

Annoyed, you pull on your bathrobe, shove your feet into your new slippers, (a goofy pair of bunny ones that Willow gave you as an early Christmas, no a late Hanukah-Solstace gift) and pad down the front stairs.

The bell rings once more: long, loud and persistent.

If it's an emergency, wouldn't the phone be ringing off the hook? Maybe it's some drunk come to the wrong house thinking he lives here.

You peek through the thick glass of the little window in the front door.

Oh. My. God.

Spike's out there on the front steps with a small overnight bag at his feet and snow dusting his shoulders. There's a look on his face that tells you that if you say the wrong thing he'll run and that'll be the end of it.

You throw yourself back first against the door in a panic.

Please God if you really exist like they told me you did in Sunday School back when I was little and that the devil was some guy in red underwear with a pitchfork and not someone I once slept with, please, please, not this!

Whatever there had been between the two of you now lies dead on the bottom of a hole in the middle of the California desert where once there'd been a town.

When Angel told you about Spike's resurrection in one of his rambling techno-illiterate e-mails, you waited, curious, nervous, maybe a little frightened because the relationship between you, if you could call the tangled slow motion car crash of mutual self-loathing followed by the beginnings of an aborted forgiveness that you once shared a relationship, had been wrong from day one.

You don't want to go through that again.

Not that you would. Should Spike show up like he has now, maybe with open arms and a wicked glint in his blue eyes, promising you as much pleasure as pain, you'd...

...well, what would, no, what will you do?

You and Angel are... let's just say that the two of you are mending things between you? Never mind that Angel didn't even come to Dawn's...

Oh God, Dawnie!

You've seen Spike twice since the End of Days. The second time was when he attended Dawn's funeral...no, you never saw Spike at the simple evening graveside service.

Over the Watcher's Council's objections, you insisted upon an evening funeral so that Angel could attend. Only Angel never came.

Just after sundown, while watching the agonizing parade of friends and colleagues walk past Dawnie's open casket where it dominated the middle of Giles' front parlor, you looked out the bay window and caught a shadowy glimpse of Spike loitering on the sidewalk across the street in the cold, damp October twilight as the street lamps began to flicker to life.

At least you think it was Spike.

The man you thought might have been Spike wore a conservative black suit and tie beneath a black raincoat with the collar turned up. His eyes were two dark pits in his face above the unlit cigarette which protruded limply from the corner of the hard straight line that was his mouth and his tow colored hair hair hung lank across his forehead in the heavy drizzle. A bouquet of what looked like roadside weeds bound up with string dangled from one street lamp bleached black-nailed hand.

He disappeared in a brief whiff of tobacco smoke just as Dawn's white casket with its burden of flowers was carried down the front steps to the waiting hearse.

Who are you kidding? It was Spike. You should have called out to him right then. You should have stopped him. You should have... Not that you wanted to after what you witnessed back in L.A. in Eve's office. That was the first time you saw Spike after he came back and...

What would you have said had Spike crossed the street and walked up to you as you stood there within the lighted rectangle of Giles' front doorway, numbly clutching Sorcha to you beside a grieving red-eyed Willow and a bored, fidgety Kennedy, watching the pallbearers wrestle the casket down the worn and slippery concrete front stairs? Xander was staggering because he'd been drinking all day, Faith was cocooned in the same shockingly modest outfit that she had worn to Robin's funeral months earlier, along with four burly young men in black suits that the Watcher's Council had provided you with; unbelievably all six made it down the steps without spilling even so much as a loose rose petal before they slid your little sister's casket into the back of the hearse as the twilight drizzle turned into a frigid downpour?

Would you have thanked Spike for coming when Angel didn't? Or would you have angrily berated him for not calling, for not letting you know that he was alive again, instead of leaving it up to Angel to tell you? Would you have risked what little composure you had left to you that evening to ask Spike why of all people did it have to be Eve, the one Angel'd warned you about?

Yes, why the Hell did it have to be Eve that you walked in on him with when you went back to L.A. to bring the barely showing Dawn back to London with you? Connor was all but glued to your sister - insisting loudly that he be allowed to come with Dawn to England because he was the father and good fathers always took care of their children and the women that they had them with. That's the way it was supposed to be and he wanted to do the right thing and take care of Dawn and his baby.

You almost laughed in Connor's thin, earnest face when he said this to you as he nervously clutched Dawn's delicate little hand in both of his unusually large ones. You, your mother, even Dawn, could have easily burst Connor's balloon had any of you felt like it. You didn't. Despite wanting very badly not to, you found that you liked this funny looking kid who made you think of an inverted mop with his skinny body and his bushy, badly cut ash brown hair. Jeepers, you honestly didn't want to hurt him even after he first hesitantly told you that he was Angel's son!

By Darla of all people?

Furious at having been lied to yet again, you went to confront Angel in his office.

Too bad you opened the wrong office door. Eve was there on the edge of her desk desk, gartered thighs spread wide open and Spike was, Spike was...

Harmony you could have understood but...Eve?

Oh God, don't think about that, it's too upsetting.

After watching Dawn's casket being lowered into foreign soil, you found Spike's tie, a dark red silk one, neatly coiled up in your purse when you were paying the cab driver who dropped you and Sorcha off at Giles' empty, echoing house. You knew it was his because some scents you'll never forget.

You sat there with the lights out in your bedroom on the chair that came with the antique gingerwood dressing table that Giles had given to you for your last birthday, Sorcha wailing unheeded in her bassinet, running the tie through your fingers, wishing that Giles wasn't still in the hospital recovering from the wounds that Ethan Rayne gave him when he tried to stop the son of a bitch from stealing your sister to save his own rank hide. Giles would have known what to do. Giles always knew what to do.

You never told Giles about the tie.

Weeks passed, then months. The tie languishes unseen on the bottom of your lingerie drawer because you can't quite bring yourself to the point of throwing it away.

You steal another glimpse of Spike through the little window.

His head's up, nostrils flaring, eyes half-shut with concentration, mouth slightly open. He's caught your scent and knows you're on the other side of the door. He's got an unlit cigarette tucked behind one ear.

I'm a grown-up now, Spike, with grown up responsibilities. I don't have time any more for you and your nasty childish games... you were right, I don't love you, I never loved you and seeing you now of all times...

The bell rings one more time. You take another look outside. He's walking back down the sidewalk, head down, hands in pockets, thin shoulders hunched, bag forgotten, towards a waiting taxi.

He looks awfully cold for someone who doesn't have a pulse.

Tucking the stake you keep by the front door into the pocket of your robe "just in case", you undo the latch and open the door, "Spike?"

Shrine

Two fifteen a.m. finds the two of you facing each other in front of the little coal hearth in what was once the formal parlor of the old Victorian villa, the only light coming from a few candles around the room.

You're in the green baize armchair.

Spike sits, or rather slouch-sprawls in the leather wingback that Giles spends his evenings reading in with Sorcha on his lap.

Leave it to Spike to choose the most controversial chair in the room in the hopes of starting something. Guess having a soul doesn't change everything after all...

Upstairs your very small niece sleeps, oblivious to what's going on beneath her just one floor down.

Spike breaks the silence first, nervously sitting up straight when he blurts out, "Buffy, I didn't come to start a row. I just come to see me niece, is all." He won't look at you.

"Your niece?" you flare up angrily, "Spike, Sorcha's not even a half cousin three times removed to you!"

"I come to see me niece." Spike swallows hard before he adds, eyes glinting in the candlelight as they briefly flicker at you. "I want, I want to give 'er a something."

"You want to give her a something?" Angry, you stand up and start wandering around the room with its curiosities, souvenirs of a life spent in the shadows, mingled among the small watercolors that you found among Dawn's things after her death. You had them framed and displayed in here because you don't want to forget her, "Spike, Sorcha isn't your niece! You're not even part of the family, you never were! Now you show up in the middle of the night with a damned baby gift?"

"Yeah Buffy, I 'ave. For me lit'l niece, a gift." Spike stands and tries to loom over you as you pause to pick up a silver-framed snapshot of Connor and a very pregnant Dawn standing and holding hands next to one of the red-coated guards at Buckingham palace. Dawn glows while Connor looks warily up at the guard's tall black fur hat as if he fully expects the thing to leap from the man's head and attack them both. Spike takes the picture away from you and puts it back on the little end table, "Look, pet, I just want, I just... I loved Dawn, even when... when she threatened to set me on fire in m' sleep near the... near the end... for doin' what I did that one... and I don't blame 'er even though it hurt like Hell to know that in, you know... doing what I did... I hurt more than just you that night when I upset the apple cart in your lavvy."

Disgust must have shown on your face. Spike swings his head back and forth a few times, eyes closed. Then he opens them, finally looking right at you, "No, it wasn't like that, so before you get your knickers in a twist, I loved your little sis, no not like you and me. Your Dawnie was me sister, me lit'l sister. Now the Niblet's dead and I wants to see me niece!" Maybe it's being back on his native soil that makes him like this, but suddenly Spike's more alien than you remember, his accent's thicker and the usual swaggger that he flavors everything he does with is gone to be replaced with by an edgy nervousness that you've never seen before in him. "I have every right to see 'er. Let me see Sorcha and then I'll just be on me bloody way out of your beautiful, clean life so you can have it back, right?"

"No."

"Then why'd you soddin' have me in then?"

You turn your back on him, aimlessly wandering around the parlor, pausing just a little bit where Dawn's casket rested less than three months ago before your turn and say through clenched teeth: "I don't know."

"You bloody well don't know? Now that's a fine piece of work that is, innit!" Spike gives you one of his patented, "Are you really that stupid?" looks of disbelief before he starts moving in a counter dance to yours: pacing, picking things up and putting them back down, turning figurines to face the wall, looking at Dawn's paintings.

There's a half-finished one of him in his inevitable painted-on black t-shirt, sitting smoking in the door of his crypt, a bottle by his feet - the only reason you had this one framed was that it was one of her better ones, not because Spike was in it.

Spike stares at this one for a very long time, face blank, before violently facing you and snarling, "You let me in but you won't let me see me niece?"

"I said I don't know!" you snarl back.

Sooooo it's back to the way it had been, as if things have never changed, as if he'd never crawled back to Sunnydale with a soul and an itchy conscience. He's pacing, you're fuming, and you're both arguing over nothing. Only this time it's not nothing. Soul or not, Spike's still a monster. You want your niece kept away from monsters for as long as possible; never mind that the Tarot readings that Giles and Willow got off Sorcha not two days after her birth tell you differently.

If you look at Spike, if you didn't know the body count he's racked up, if you didn't know what he really was, you'd say, "O.K., so he's a little weird looking with his black lacquered fingernails, heavy leather duster and eyeliner, but lots of kids are weird these days. It's just a phase. Let him see his niece. Let him hold the her on his lap." Never mind that those beautiful hands have more than once snapped necks, gouged eyes, and ripped beating hearts from their owner's chests. "So what if he sometimes looks like he's got way too many teeth for a human mouth? Nobody's perfect! Let him hold Sorcha, take a few snapshots while you're at it to put in the baby book, maybe send a few to his mother..."

...never mind that he has two faces, one angelic, one demonic and his own mother died over a century ago at his hand...and that his teeth know what it's like to rip into a living throat...yet he had been so... tender? the one time you let him drive and not you. Instead of the scourging you demanded, his hands had wandered gently, reverently, all over your body beneath your clothes out behind the Doublemeat Palace when the rest of the world wouldn't listen because you refused to talk. His teeth had been gentled for you, nipping lightly at the back of your neck, your shoulders... your throat, while his hips thrust away between your thighs as if he was leading you through a dance.

Eve. Don't forget Eve.

Afterwards, Spike had leaned beside you, a freshly lit cigarette dangling from between his lips, against the greasy bricks of the alleyway, looking at you through his dark eyelashes as you hurridly pulled your polyester uniform pants back up. With a little smile, he'd said softly, in a voice you've never heard from him before or since, "Feel better now, love?" as he reached out to touch your hair...

Eve. Don't forget Eve.

As a thank you, you hit him in the face so hard you felt his jaw fracture against the side of your fist.

The sound of bone snapping and the stunned look on his face as he went down, haunted you for days.

Eve.

Right! As bad as you feel now, don't give in, don't be tempted - don't let him near the baby. You were stupid to let him break the sacred barrier that all thresholds guard, bringing his dirt, his smarm, his violence into a place that you've gone out of your way to keep clean - why on earth did you let Spike into your house, your nice clean house where monsters are something on old Dr. Who re-runs and blood is something that you see every 28 days and not a staple to be microwaved to 98.6° before being slurped out of a coffee cup?

Throw Spike out! Throw him out out out out! Better yet, dust him where he stands like you should have done years ago. Don't look into his eyes and see how hurt he is, never mind how many lives he's ruined in the past.

Just like you. Right? For every vampire you let get away, there was a funeral maybe five, maybe six. You've left your own blood trail behind you ever since you woke up one morning in LA at the age of fifteen and smashed the alarm clock because somehow in the night you'd become stronger than you should be and some old guy named Merrick accosted you on your way to cheerleader practice...

"Please Buffy, I just want to see her." Spike stops pacing, taking your hands in his two cold ones; hesitantly kissing your coffin scarred knuckles.

His eyes look pleadingly into yours and you find your resolve beginning to dissolve.

"Spike, get out." Giles stands in the doorway leading out into the hallway, leaning on a cane that he didn't need before Sorcha was born thanks to Ethan Rayne's greed. His bathrobe is tied messily and his thinning hair is on end as if he got out of bed in a hurry. "Regardless of what you did for us in the end when the Hellmouth collapsed, you are not to come near us because I, we, cannot forget what you really are, soul or not."

"No," you say, disengaging your hands, "Spike just got in from L.A. He only wants to see Sorcha is all."

"I don't think that's a good idea - we both agreed that..."

"I know, I know!" You interrupt your Watcher, "But if I let him see Sorcha, maybe he could convince Angel to..."

"Buffy, from what you have told me from Angel's letters, Spike couldn't convince Angel to pull his thick Byronic head out of his arse even if he threatened to set him on fire..." You fold your arms and scowl. Giles looks old as he puts an arm around your shoulder and leads you into the kitchen, leaning heavily on you.

The two of you face each other down, you with your butt on the edge of the kitchen counter, Giles propping himself on the edge of the Aga cooker. Angel's been a sore point between the two of you for years, and now its gotten worse because Angel's turned his back on his grandchild.

You can live with Angel having abandoned you back in the old days, but to ignore Sorcha?

There have been huge boxes of tastefully selected age-appropriate toys and clothing arriving weekly from L.A. ever since Sorcha was born two months ago last October, but nothing, well, personal. You're now just beginning to suspect that Spike may be behind it because every time you thank Angel when one shows up on your doorstep all covered with UPS stickers, you get no response. Connor receives nothing. Not so much as a note asking about how he's being treated at the Watcher's Asylum. When you visit him every other day, Angel's son inevitably asks you through his drugged haze if his father has come to see him.

Connor always cries when you reluctantly tell him "No."

As you and your Watcher argue, Spike hovers around the corner of your awareness. He did that a lot back in Sunnydale; like some wild animal drawn to a campfire, too wary to approach but too fascinated by the light to completely go away.

You and Giles argue some more until you come to a compromise.

Spike may stay, he may even see the baby, but he'd best keep his filthy hands to himself and be gone by tomorrow night.

Your despised former lover... seems grateful.

You take Spike into your bedroom, ignoring the dirty clothes strewn 'round the place, and let him peer down at Sorcha all wrapped up in a pink blanket, rosebud mouth partially open, eyes shut, her long dark lashes fanned out across her apple cheeks.

Spike's long, beautiful hands with their black lacquered fingernails hesitantly reach out towards your niece. You smack them away. "I wasn't going to 'urt 'er!" he protests, jamming them deep into the pockets of his duster, the one he'd looted from the body of Robin's mother even before her body'd had time to cool on the dirty floor of a New York subway car.

"We agreed, hands off. Keep it that way!"

Spike pulls into himself, sucks in his cheeks and rocks back and forth on his heels a few times, "All right Buffy, a deal's a deal. I keep me filthy paws off the kid and you don't stake me." His eyes glitter in the nightlight beside the bassinet.

"Right. Now get out."

"If. It. Would. Make. You. Happy. Pet." Spike turns to leave. "I'll take the next flight out of Heathrow to L.A. and get out of both your lives."

Did you just see a tear roll down one cheek?

They can do that you know, vampires, cry. Angel cried a lot, but it didn't stop him from walking out on you when you needed him the most. You relent.

A little.

"Spike, you can stay in the guest room, second door to the right down the hall. It has its own bathroom. There's clean towels in the closet - just don't try anything funny."

"I. Won't. Pet. "

Spike's footsteps echo down the hall. A door opens and then shuts.

Your little sister and Connor slept in that room, playing "house" before the doctors found out that there was something wrong with Dawn and had her hospitalized where you couldn't protect her. The memory of walking past their closed door late at night on your way to the bathroom and hearing the two of them giggling in the big bed when they should have been sleeping makes your eyes sting...

You spend the rest of the night standing solitary guard over Dawn and Connor's only child.

9-5

Willow and Xander pick you and Sorcha up the next day on their way to work after you see Giles off to his physical therapist in a cab. Willow is now in charge of building the new online databases for the new and improved Council. Xander, still a contractor at heart, went through the thicket of red tape that is England's union system, and is now contentedly helping rebuild the physical aspect of the center.

Both are not happy to hear that Spike's returned like some sort of bad smell.

"You didn't let him near Sorcha?" Xander asks you as he helps you put Sorcha in the baby seat that's in the back of his car. "Hellmouth or not, The Evil Dead should not be allowed near children, puppies and anything without a warrantee."

"No, I just let him look at her." You finish buckling Sorcha in and put on your own seat belt.

Willow sits up front, laptop across her knees. She looks at you both over the back of the seat, concerned. "Buffy, I know Spike's got a soul and all, and you told me about what happened when the Hellmouth collapsed, but soul or not, without the chip in his head, I still don't think you can trust him." Willow reaches over sticks the pacifier back in Sorcha's mouth. It's solid rubber because even without teeth, your niece has already bitten clean through five of the regular ones and choked."You know how Spike is, he gets all friendly with you and then whap! he'll turn around and do something all mean and horrible! Remember what he did to you in your own bathroom when you broke up with him?" Willow pauses, before whispering so that Xander doesn't hear, "And, well, Eve?"

Oh God, why did she have to remind you of that? You should never have told her!

"Thanks, no, Wills. Already been there, don't want to think about it."

"Sacrifice for the world or not, I still think you should wait for him to go to sleep and stake him. End of..." Xander broke off as he began to close the car door on Sorcha's side, you follow his gaze up to the second floor. The guest bedroom curtain is moving like someone has been looking out. "You don't suppose he heard me? Good! You hear me Dead Man Stalking? I hope she stakes you and that's the end of it you freak!"

"Xander!" you and Willow both say at once.

Xander does not look repentant. Instead he tosses the British double fingered salute up at the window and stomps 'round to the driver's side, yanks open the door, sits down hard, slams the door, starts the engine as he buckles his seat belt, and then pulls out into the pre-dawn traffic.

You ride on in silence except for the smacking sound of Sorcha contentedly sucking on her pacifier and the car's heater.

Silence is loud. Did you know that?

It's a relief when Xander finally pulls up and parks in front of the new Watcher's Council building out on the edge of some anonymous London suburb.

The four of you get out: Xander goes to the new wing that will house the dormitories for the older girls once the drywall is in place. Willow silently peels off, laptop and briefcase in hand at the new Archives where she's supervising the construction of a new LAN system, leaving and you and Sorcha to yourselves. Sorcha goes to the special nursery where the girls who were called literally in their cradles now romp and giggle among reinforced toys that won't smash and shatter the second they forget the restrained gentleness that is being constantly drilled into them so that they won't hurt the people around them. One of the nannies, the same species as Clem, takes Sorcha from you, cooing and fussing over your niece in a thick Irish accent.

You enter your office on the third floor, and close the door behind you, locking it.

You take your shoes off, loosen the buttons on your new power suit, and instantly go to sleep on the couch for the rest of the day, only pausing to wake up from memories that leave your face wet with tears.

Lamb, Mushy Peas...and O Positive

Giles is home, dinner is ready, Sorcha's already downed a bottle so she's in her reinforced bouncy chair on the end of the table contentedly sucking on her pacifier

Spike comes downstairs and pointedly takes a seat at the kitchen table that's as far away from your niece as possible after taking a blood bag out of the refrigerator and emptying it into a mug.

Giles gives him a look as he passes you the lamb casserole. Obviously Spike found the frozen plasma you'd bought two months ago so that Angel would have something to eat while he attended Dawn's funeral. You left them untasted in the freezer next to the ice cream and the frozen peas, unwilling to throw them away because you keep telling yourself, "He'll be here any day now. He'll need them when he does."

Silence.

Yeah, right!

More silence.

Spike's looking down at his hands where they rest on the worn tablecloth cradling his dinner, which you notice he hasn't bothered to warm up in the microwave. You see his eyes sliding constantly in the direction of Sorcha who is now quietly singing to herself while her little hands flutter randomly around her face which is what she does when all is right with the world.

Even more silence.

You start on the mushy peas.

Disgusting! But that's the price you pay when you let Giles cook for you!

You could cut the silence with a knife should you choose to.

Sorcha's tiny left hand, the active, wicked nasty-bad one with attitude, yanks the pacifier from her mouth and drops it onto the floor. Your niece gets her usual stunned look on her face as if to say, "Where'd it go? I just had it here not a minute ago. This is unfair!" before throwing her head back, shaking it soundlessly from side to side with her mouth wide open, face turning purple. Finally she cuts loose with one of her ear piercing shrieks that you swear will one day shatter glass.

What a relief!

You reach over to pick up the pacifier. Spike's hand intercepts yours, getting there first. Without being told, he gets up, walks over to the sink, and runs the tap over the pacifier. Without breaking eye contact with you, he puts it back in Sorcha's mouth before sitting back down again.

Sorcha immediately stops screaming. Her eyes close as she begins to contentedly abuse it once more with her rock crusher jaws.

"Thank you." is all you say.

Happy, Haunekah? Merry Christmas? Uhhhhhh, Solstice?

Xander and Willow are at the door with a little Christmas tree and three big bags of gifts for Sorcha.

You and Giles get some too.

Kennedy is conspicuously absent - this is going to be a good evening after all!

Their hands linger on each other, discreetly.

What's up with that? If it is what you think it is, it's about time.

Spike shoots up the back stairs like a scalded cat, his meal untouched and congealing on the kitchen table.

Willow glows as she picks up her goddaughter, or is that goddessdaughter? You've forgotten how radient your best friend can be - there was something about being around Kennedy that dampened that down. She's also brazenly flirting with Xander.

You were right!

"See Sorkie? See the pretty tree?" She holds a dozy Sorcha upright to see her first Christmas Tree. "Ira Rosenberg's daughter finally has her own little tree! Buffy, did you know that I had to sneak out of the house every year to help Xander's family decorate theirs since I was five? They always did it the same night that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on and Xander, well, you know!" She kisses Sorcha with many loud smacks and passes her to Xander before opening a brand new box of tiny blown blue glass balls and little silver menorahs with a Harrod's label on it, "'Course now I'm a Wicca and this is just a way of commemorating...Xander!" she wails, "We forgot the little hookie thingys!"

Giles comes to the rescue with a box of paper clips and you all spend a few minutes re-bending them into Christmas tree hooks. Willow then spends a blissful hour decorating the little tree to her heart's content. The rest of you sit around the parlor, watching, enjoying her delight because you know that the tree's really more for her than it is for Sorcha.

You sense Spike's presence upstairs in Dawn and Connor's, no, the guest room like a dark blot on a piece of white paper. His promise to leave tonight has been broken. But you're enjoying your friend's happiness too much to make an issue of it.

"Thy cradle is all silken lined..."

Xander and Willow went home after Faith dropped by to say "hey". You've forgiven her for a lot of things since you saw her cry at Robin's funeral, .

You put Sorcha down in the bassinet before following her into sleep.

Hours later you wake up and the room is freezing.

There's a window open to the winter night and Sorcha is missing.

Her little coat is gone from the bedpost. So is the little baby sized quilt that your aunt back in L.A. made for Sorcha when she was born.

Oh God, not again!

You scramble out of bed, knocking over a box of disposable diapers, no nappies, too frightened to even turn on the bedside lamp. You should never have listened to Giles when he found out that you wanted everything around Sorcha coated with protective charms and advised you against it because no telling what the proximity of so much magic might do to such a young child and Willow had firmly agreed. So you'd settled for practically never letting her out of your sight unless you had to.

Boots! Boots! Where are my winter boots? Oh God where are my winter boots?

You find them when you trip over them over by your dressing table, leaving a dent in the plaster and lathe wall. You only leave her with people you trust, that Willow and Giles have run background checks on...and you've failed to protect her anyway. Trying not to give in to your rising hysteria because this is the last thing Sorcha needs, you sit down and try to pull them on, only to pause when you heard a man's voice singing softly outside the open window.

Thy cradle is all silken lined,
Wrought roses on thy curtains twined,
Warm woolly blankets o'er thee spread,
And soft white pillows for thy head.

Crawling on your hands and knees to the window, you strain to make out the words. Is this some sort of charm to throw you off the thief's trail or to keep Sorcha from crying?

Much gold those little hands shall hold,
And wealth about thy life shall fold,
And thou shalt see nor pain nor strife,
Nor the low ills of common life.

You peer cautiously over the sill. above you, there's a man silhouetted against the moon sitting with his back against the chimney, hair blowing in the wind.

These little feet shall never tread
Except on paths soft-carpeted,
And all life's flowers in wreaths shall twine
To deck that darling head of thine.

Spike? You didn't know that he could sing. No, wait, there was that time... Do we have time for this? No!

Thou shalt have overflowing measure
Of wealth and joy and peace and pleasure,
And thou shalt be right charitable
With all the crumbs that leave thy table.

Stunned you lean out, "Spike, what the hell are you doing?" you demand.

"Shhh pet, you'll wake the baby." There's a light, mocking sing-song tone in his voice; you catch a glimmer of teeth and eyes in his shadowed face.

Angry, you scramble out the window before clambering up the frigid brickwork and old ivy vines, heaving yourself up over the gutter and onto the slippery roof tiles after you put on your coat. Spike reaches out a hand; effortlessly pulling you up beside him on the little stone ledge around the chimney where brick meets slate without even shifting position.

"First I let you into my home and then you..."

"Buffy, you'll wake the baby, I just wanted to see her, is all, an' show 'er my London."

"What?"

"Show her my Town, a lit'l fun, is all." You notice that Spike's hair is a loose mass of curls; he hasn't gelled it into submission the way he usually does. Socha's asleep against his chest, little mittened hands tangled in his shirt, cheek tight against the leather of his duster. "Lean back against the chimney, still warm it is, safe as 'ouses, used to do it all the time as a wee lad."

You reach out and try to take your niece from him. He eases Sorcha gently out of your reach, "Sorcha, me mum never knew that some nights I'd sit up 'ere, just watching the lights in all the 'ouses, wonderin' what the people on the other side of all those windows were like..."

"What?"

"You're Uncle Spike, that's me, was born in this 'ouse, in your Auntie Buffy's bedroom."

"What the hell are you talking about, Spike?"

"Right 'ere platelet, I was born, right under where we're sittin', ducks."

"Spike, you once told me your mother was a Whitechapel whore and your father God knows?" Leaning on one elbow, he'd told you this one hot afternoon as the two of you lay across the room from each other post-coitus in his crypt while the cicadas buzzed in a sex mad roar and you didn't have the energy to tell him to "Shut up" as usual. It hadn't made sense at the time because he had earlier told you that his mum was prim, proper, and too dainty a lady to read the newspaper for herself; making him read it aloud to her each morning after he'd first edited it for things that were too shocking for a woman of good breeding to hear.

Oh, and that she would have died a second death of shame had she ever heard him speaking with a working class accent which is why he still made a point of dropping his 'aiches when he remembered to.

"Now, ducks, me mum came from a good family and me dad did too, only 'e was married and couldn't do right by 'er so 'e kept the two of us in this house out of sight, out of mind where we wouldn't embarrass 'im." One handedly Spike fumbles around in his pockets before producing a pack of unfiltered cigarettes. He eases one out with his teeth, shoving it back down into the pocket it came from before pulling out his lighter. Spike pauses, glancing over at you and then flips the top of the lighter open with a metallic click and lights up - sheltering the little flame from the wind with the fingers of the same hand as he dips his mouth with its burden of tobacco towards it, one eyebrow quirked in your direction, daring you to say something.

You scowl at him in the moonlight but Spike lights up anyway, angling himself into the wind so that the smoke won't disturb Sorka. With a clink, the lighter goes out and follows the pack of cigarettes back into his duster pocket. He scoots back against the chimney, both arms firmly wrapped around your niece, face tilted to the sky, throat bared to the moon, puffing meditatively out of the corner of his mouth.

Below, a party of late night pre-holiday revelers sings and staggers up the sidewalk.

The moon goes behind a cloud, darkening everything.

You find yourself dozing off despite the cold.

"Now see down there ducks?" His voice wakes you with a start, "That's where when I was a very small lad of seven, I stood in the window one morning and watched the undertaker carry the wee lit'l white coffin of me baby sister down the stairs, up the walk and into the 'earse." Spike paused to take a deep drag, holding it forever before expelling it through his nose in a long, trembling stream, free hand draped over his knee. He continues. "Your Aunt Susan's coffin was no bigger 'n a shoebox and looked very strange sitting in the middle of that huge glass sided 'earse without even a flower to keep 'er company or mourners to follow. I wasn't allowed to say goodbye because that's the way it was done in this house. If you didn't see it, it didn't exist, right? Right!" He flicked the ash off the end in a shower of orange sparks that trailed away into the wind. "Nothin' nasty or improper ever 'appened in this 'ouse 'cept me. So, I didn't even 'ave t' wear black because it soddin' never happened!"

"Oh Spike, I never knew..." A slow horror fills you; at least Dawn had mourners. At least you'd seen her off though the sight of the earth swallowing her up had ripped you in half.

Spike went on as if he didn't hear you, "I'd take you to see our Sukey, platelet, but some planner 'ad the bloody cheek to run the M5, a bloody great highway that is, right over her grave. I'll drive you that section some day, right?"

Sorcha whimpers and Spike shushes her, rocking her a little. "And over there Sorks," he points way off in the distance with the glowing end of his cigarette, "Two streets over, is where we moved after we got back from a summer by the sea at Brighton because losin' me wee sister, even though it never 'appened, made me mum go all quiet and funny in 'er 'ead and start coughing up blood. Anyway, the doctors said a change would do 'er good."

You shift closer, your anger beginning to ebb just a little. Spike ignores you, "I'd take you to see me new house ducks, but sorry, some kraut barstard dropped a bomb on it in 1942 - blew it to bits! Nothin' left but a cellar hole and even that's gone now - 's paved over, a parkin' lot for a bloody supermarket! I liked that place. You would too pet. It had a garden where you could sit and smoke all day with nobody bloody yammerin' in your ears that you and your words weren't good enough for the likes a them, pet! That they didn't want t' marry you because you didn't 'ave a real name and would never amount to anythin' because you weren't the real son of your own father, pet! Never mind that they thought it would be amusin' to invite you to their soddin' parties because havin' nameless you 'round made them feel daringly Modern, pet! It wasn't like it is now, nobody cares who your parents are, or that's the way it's supposed to be." There was an unhappy snarl in Spike's voice as he looked right at you, "Do you know who your father is wee one? Did your aunt see to it that he did right by you and at least tried to go to the Registry office with your mum? Or was she careless, letting it get past her like she did everything else including your good ol' Uncle Spike? Eh ducks? Eh?"

"Spike, that's enough!" You slide over and take Sorcha away from him. Spike hunches, arms resting on his knees, chin resting on arms, looking out over London at midnight."Connor took very good care of Dawnie even down to the end when she died - if they didn't make it legal. Don't blame me, blame Ethan Rayne when he grabbed my sister, only letting us have her back when it was too late. Dawnie's dead Spike, end of story!"

Sorcha begins to howl.

"You woke up me niece." There's the same slight quaver in Spike's voice that you once heard when you thought you were telling him goodbye forever beneath Sunnydale and he let you know that he knew you never loved him, not really. "Give her to us, will you pet?" Spike tossed his cigarette over the edge of the roof in a shower of dull orange sparks and holds out his hands.

Against your better judgment, you pass Sorcha back. Spike starts singing to her again with his cigarette roughened voice, the same song as before, "Me mum used to sing this to me now and then in between that other song..." he said in between the first and second verse, "Wanted to teach this one to Dawnie but never got the chance - was going to come and visit, but I didn't think I'd be welcome after you slammed the door in me face in L.A. when you came to take her away from us, when she started showin' what Connor did to her."

"Spike, I didn't shut the door on you, you shut the door on me."

"I bloody well did not!" Sorcha starts and begins to wail again, "Hush platelet, your Auntie Buffy's still got that hair-trigger temper, forgot all about it, didn't we?" He continued, "I come to your suite at Wolfrum and Hart and you slammed th' soddin' door in me face - Dawnie gettin' in the family way wasn't my bloody fault! If I 'ad known Connor was carryin' a loaded gun in his trousers, I would 'ave cut it off before I ever let him near her!"

"You think I'm blaming you for Dawn's getting pregnant?" This is funny. This is too, too funny, "It happened. It would have happened sooner or later. Angel and I guess Angel's son has that effect on Summers women. If she'd lived, I would have loved to have had him as a brother-in-law - Connor's major weird, but he made Dawn happy like I'd never seen her before. You should have seen them together - he waited on her hand and foot and slept on the floor beside her bed when the doctor's put her on bed rest. I'd never seen Angel's son smile before but Dawnie could make him smile just by looking at him!" You can't stop giggling, "It wasn't that. Who cares about all that? It's why in Hell if you really loved me, did I walk in on you eating Eve, of all people, out? On her desk? Harmony I could almost understand, but Eve? During her period?"

The two of you sit next to each other for a long time, the only sound being that of cars whispering by on the street below.

"That, cough wasn't sex, that was lunch." Spike mumbled. From what you could see of his face, he has the grace for once to look embarrassed. Maybe he is. You can't tell because for Spike, the truth has always been as malleable as warm chewing gum; to be stretched and pulled into whatever sticky shape he wants it to be. You'd just stood there in the doorway, stunned at the sight of Spike face down on his knees between Eve's legs, her manicured fingers twisted into his hair. Without looking up he'd said, "Bugger off Harm, I'm busy!"

Eve had laughed even as you noticed her briefly stiffen and then sigh, relaxing with half lidded eyes, "You should really try this. It eases the cramps like nothing else, having a cold tongue at work down there. Right Spike?" Spike had mumbled something that you couldn't quite make out and Eve continued, "Let me guess, you're Buffy Summers and you're looking for Angel." Spike started and fell over backwards, landing at your feet with a yell, looking up at you, blood dribbling down his chin. Eve slid off the edge of her desk, one hand casually adjusting her skirt back over her thighs, the other extended towards you, "You may go now, Spike. Come back around three. Buffy, so you're the original Slayer, pleased to meet you. I'm Eve, Angel's liaison with the Senior Partners." There was a wicked glint in her eyes as Spike scrambled to his feet and fled, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Trying to keep your cool in the face of the enemy, you asked Eve where Angel's office was, excused yourself, and left.

Then it had been humiliating. Now, up on a roof with the North wind blowing up your pajama legs, suddenly it's funny.

"What'n 'ell are you laughing 'bout, Buffy?" Spike glares at you while lighting up a fresh smoke. "You knew what I was when you shagged me the first time but you did it anyway - what's so soddin' funny?"

"The look on your face when you fell out from between Eve's legs. God, it looked like someone had goosed you with a cattle prod!" It feels good to laugh; you haven't done it for so long that you've forgotten what it feels like to let go.

"S'not funny that is, a man needs his dignity. Even when he's on the job." Spike takes a deep drag and holds it with an injured air about him- which just makes you laugh all the harder.

"Spike, if you had any dignity, you wouldn't have gotten caught."

"Fair enough."

"Fair enough? Why didn't you at least call when you came back?"

"Because I was afraid of what I would find when I did." Spike quietly interrupted, looking away.

"You what?" You stop laughing and hold Sorcha to you.

"I was afraid of what I would find if I... contacted you. Then there was Wolfram & Hart. Well, let's just say even before you dumped the Niblet on us, things were heating up..."

"I did not! Dawn didn't want to finish school in a foreign country and Angel agreed to be her guardian!"

"And I let Connor at her. Now our Dawn's dead and it's all me fault."

"Spike, you're full of shit."

"Am not!"

"I know full of shit when I see it, and you're overflowing with it." You don't know weather to continue laughing or to burst into tears, so you do neither. "Spike, it's letting off the hook time. I needed someone, you were there and you didn't say no."

"Yeah. I didn't." He closes his eyes, "I didn't. You meant more to me than I ever did to you - even then I knew it. It's better to have a wee lie or two than nothing, innit?"

You lean against Spike, the warm bricks at your back. Hesitantly he puts his arm around your shoulder and the two of you just sit there like that for a long time.

"Buffy, if... if I ever came to you with a pulse, would you have me?"

"No."

"That's what I thought you'd say." Spike shifted and sighed. "Somehow hearing it makes it real."

"Sorry."

"Don't be. I knew the game was over long ago."

What, no histrionics? No rages? No declarations of revenge?

"Thank you." is all you say.

Tea With The Devil

You're back in Giles' kitchen, the kettle heating on the Aga cooker, Sorcha's back upstairs in her bassinet, fast asleep. "So, what was this you wanted to give Sorcha?"

You look at Spike. Spike looks up at the light fixture over the table.

The little electric clock shaped like a ship's wheel over the sink ticks.

The fridge kicks in with a rattling cough.

With a whistle the kettle comes to a full boil.

"Better get that pet before you wake Giles with that racket." Spike sounds uncharacteristically tired as you rise and turn off the burner before bringing the kettle over and sitting down again. Giles has tried over and over to teach you how to make a "proper" cup of tea, but the lessons never stuck so you had Angel ship you a five pound box of Lipton tea bags. When you pull a tea bag out of the box that you keep on the table next to the salt and pepper shakers, Spike finally looks you in the eye before he takes the tea bag away from you with a derisive flick before tossing it into the trash, no bin, by the cooker. He stands, opens a cupboard and takes down the tea things as if he already knew where they were.

Maybe Spike does. He was after all, born in this house. If he is to be believed. The British can be very conservative. Perhaps that cabinet has always been where tea things are stored, the only thing different being the owners over the years, no, century or so since as a child he'd sat on its roof and dreamed about what might be beyond the dark urban skyline.

"Buffy, you've been here how many bloody years and you still don't know how to do it right? Your mum could, every time she let me in of an evening." Spike warms the Brown Bess teapot with hot water from the tap before filling it with loose tea and hot water from the stovetop kettle. He then sets it down in front of you, along with the strainer, the cream jug, the little glass lemon dish, and the sugar. You offer to share, but he fends you off with: "Couldn't taste it then, can't taste it now, Bourbon's about the only thing aside from beer, wine, strong coffee and onions that I have left to me other than blood. But she wanted me to feel at home, so I let her."

"My mother served you tea?" you give your former demon lover a look of disbelief.

"Is that so very odd?" Spike takes off his duster, draping it over the back of his worn kitchen chair before he sits down and began to go through the ritual that is tea, his hands working steadily as he met your eyes. "Buffy, even before I got my soul back, the chip had already made me like the bat in the old fairy story. He wasn't a bird, he wasn't beast; he was a little of both. So when it came time for the little bugger to choose sides, he couldn't because he didn't belong with either so both sides ended up hating him." Spike picked up the strainer in one hand and paused. "I had no place to go after the Initiative blew up with you and the Scoobies help. That summer, Joyce gave me one even though I terrified her out of her mind. I could smell it on her, the fear. I did for her."

"You what?" Oh God, not my mother!

The complacency, the near-forgivness you were beginning to feel toward Spike, begins to evaporate, "With my mother? How could you?" Your voice rises, "Nothing's sacred around you is it? Nothing!"

"Buffy, Buffy, no need to go the stroppy cow on me! Ease off!"

You force yourself to relax. Like finding about whose Connor's mother was, this is something you need to know no matter how painful it might be.

"It wasn't like that, right? All I did was mow the lawn and clean the gutters now and then for her. Right? I even mended things 'round the house and her gallery, though I knew sod all about any of that stuff and only made things worse. Right? Now. Did your precious Captain Cardboard with his wholesome 'gee-gosh-golly can I help too?' attitude even try to do his part? That big wanker never did lift a finger 'round the place while he was eatin' your mum's food and sittin' on her couch with his big farm boy arse, right?" Spike hands you a cup on a saucer, an incongruous moment, accepting something so delicate, so civilized from an acknowledged killer. "Right! So, while you two were out shaggin' I was clipping the bloody hedges!" Scowling, Spike throws himself back into the chair in a half slouch, legs thrust out before him beneath the table before picking up a loose spoon and rapping it in a sharp, nervous tattoo against the table edge before he snarls, "Bloody Hell! Buffy, helpin' your mum out was the least I could do, was the only thing I could do! I would have done anything for Joyce. I would have even given her a roll in the sack had she asked."

You spit your tea out, exclaiming, "That's disgusting!"

"Is it? Buffy, your mum was hot, and your old man was a fool to set her aside!"

Spike stood up and began restlessly pacing the narrow confines of the kitchen, punctuating his anger by stabbing the air around him with the spoon, "Bloody Hell! Because she was the only one of you lot that never shut me out, not once, I would have gone and found your old man and beat the child support money out of him for her even if it made my head explode. But she never asked, she never soddin' asked for either from me! All she ever asked me to do were odd jobs 'round the house which kept me in pocket money for smokes and plasma." Spike angrily flings the spoon at the wall over the sink, where it sticks vibrating before one of his hands creeps to the back of his head, almost but not quite touching it before catching himself and quickly shoving both hands into his back pockets. You've seen Spike do this before when he thought nobody was looking. The night you'd settled accounts with Glory and gotten yourself killed, Spike scratched himself nearly raw back there before being distracted by the battle once it started. "Worse, you wouldn't even let me come to her funeral! You held it out in broad daylight so I couldn't even attend the service. I had to soddin' sit off in the old section under a filthy tarp and watch the whole thing, and then your brilliant friends wouldn't even let me come to the family gathering at Joyce's house after sundown because I! Wasn't! Welcome!"

"You wanted to come?"

"Joyce was the only real friend I ever had. She didn't want anything from me. She didn't try to run me so called life. She let me... ahhhh, bloody Hell! What would you know about friendship anyway? What with your precious Scoobies stabbin' you in the back every chance they got?"

"Spike, that's a dead issue. Kennedy is history. Willow and I have forgiven each other, end of story!"

Is it? Is it really?

The two of you glare at each other, him leaning with his skinny ass against the edge of the Aga cooker, arms folded defensively, you in one of Gile's kitchen chairs. Yep, things really haven't changed all that much. Only who's gonna give now? You or him? He would have to have brought that little issue up, where Kennedy tossed you out of your own house and your best friend didn't object all that much because she was face down between Kennedy's legs just like Spike had been with Eve.

Why does it always have to boil down to sex?

Uncomfortable with the silence, you change the subject. "So, what's this thing you want to give Sorcha? The ashes of Santa Clause?" Just before you both climbed off the roof, you noticed that Spike removed a loose brick from the side of the chimney, pulled something out from behind it, and then slipped whatever it was into one of his duster pockets.

"It's Father Christmas over here, I'll have you know." Spike rolled his eyes with exasperation, "God, Summers, first you mess up something as simple as a cuppa and then you don't know the name of the local demon what goes down chimneys and eviscerates small children? What kind of Slayer are you?"

"What-ever! So, what is it Spike? I don't have all night!" Somehow you feel more than a little jealous of him. While you and Riley had been out on patrol, he'd spent time with your mother, time that you spent well, to be quite frank, doing the nasty in Riley's little apartment, hoping that the vampires you were supposed to be staking didn't rise that night because you didn't need that on your conscience... being rude to Spike makes you feel better about the whole thing.

"This." He reaches into his duster pocket and puts a small, flat tarnished silver box down on the table between you while looking at you expectantly. You slide it toward you hesitantly with your free hand. "When I told your mother about it, she wanted me to show it to her some day."

It was an old fashioned cigar case, like the one Grampy Summers had. He told you once that his father had given it to him when he went off to shoot Germans in 1943 and that it had belonged to your Great Grampy Summers and his father before that.

Engraved on the lid were engraved the initials, WMT II. "So?" you ask.

"I am..." Spike pulled something else out of his pocket, a dogeared California driver's license and places it beside the cigar case. "I am William Michael Tully III...and this, this...was my father's. He accidentally left it in my mother's bedroom, where you sleep now, when I was six. I stole it." Spike said quietly, his accent now completely gone. He sounds like Giles only without the soft stutter. "Aside from that, and a small annual income that I was supposed to inherit when I was thirty, that's all I ever got from him. That, and his face." You look at the small piece of plastic. A mug shot of Spike, complete with closed eyes decorates one corner. Is this real? "My mother always said I had my father's face." Spike laughs, but there's something bitter in it, something you recognize from Dawn's voice whenever she asked you after mom died if Dad had called, written, anything, because she already knew the answer but she had to ask anyway because she'd feel worse if she didn't. "If I wanted to see my father, all I had to do, when still I could once upon a time, was look in the mirror every morning as the barber shaved me."

"Spike, I never knew. How could anybody?" But you know, you know because it had been done to you after your parents divorced. You went from beloved daughter, as had Dawn, to a quickly forgotten inconvenience. The two of you had been reduced to nothing more than a child support check which at first arrived monthly from Spain only to dwindle down down to "every once in a while", before transforming into a final "never".

"Open it. Please."

You push the license aside and take up the case, working the tiny catch, folding back the tarnished lid with its extinct monogram.

You pause, realizing that you aren't looking at a random collection of inanimate objects, but human remains.

They aren't much, being few little odds and ends, something a small child might treasure: a handful of lead toy soldiers, a shilling that someone had put on a railroad track and flattened, pebbles, tiny sea shells, a minute china dog with one chipped ear, and a fragile bird's egg, no bigger than a fingernail that someone had very painstakingly blown out. Beneath it all lay a faded picture of a child, a girl dressed in lace with long curls framing her grave, big-eyed face. "Is this, was this... Susan?" The thought of the Big Bad having a sibling is still a strange one.

"No, Buffy..." Spike says patiently as he slides one black lacquered nail beneath the dim little photograph and lifts it out before he hands it to you. "That's me."

"But the curls...the dress ...you're a boy, or were, I've seen you na..."

Spike leans forward, putting an unusually gentle finger against your lips. It smells of cigarette smoke and aftershave. "Things were different back then Buffy. My sister didn't live long enough to be photographed like this. Because she never happened, my mother never had her photographed in her lit'l coffin so I don't even have that."

"That's so gross!"

"Buffy...things were different then." Spike repeats quietly. "Things were very different then."

"Well, what about the dress? I mean, therapy time!" You think the child is perhaps one or two years old.

"That's the way they dressed the little ones, the ones whose parents could afford it. I don't remember the day this was taken, I was too small, but I do remember the day when I stole my father's cigar case from where he'd left it on my mother's dressing table, and took it up onto the roof to see if I could smoke like he did," Spike laughed reflectively, "I found this in the bottom beneath the cigars, which by the way, made me heave all over myself on my first puff !"

Both of you sit there a long time, the case with it's little trickle of lead soldiers and seashells... the driver's license and the photograph, between you.

Spike breaks the silence, "Buffy, listen, please? Will you give these to Sorcha when she's old enough to understand?" he leans forward expectantly, "Look, I know you don't want me in Sorcha's life. I don't blame you, not any more, but could you tell her about me some day? And try not to laugh too hard when you do?"

Carefully you put the photograph, the seashells, the egg, the china dog and then the tiny lead soldiers one by one back into the case. You indicate the license.

Spike nods, and says, "It's real. Wolfram & Hart made it up for me in case I ever get stopped in traffic or need an ID. I have two copies." So you slip it in before slowly snapping the lid shut, like the lid of Dawn's coffin the night you buried her. "Yes. I will."

Spike sits back, looking at the ceiling. "Thank you." he whispers

His eyes are glittering again.

Red Silk Tie

Christmas Eve morning Giles came and took Sorcha out of the bassinet so that you could sleep in. You knew he'd been there last night, sitting in the darkened parlor the whole time, listening to you and Spike, but he says nothing.

Spike was gone, the bed unslept in as if he had never been there.

The tarnished silver cigar case with "WMT II" engraved on the lid now rests in your lingerie drawer, wrapped in a certain dark red silk tie.

Downstairs you hear Faith trying to convince Giles to let her string lights all over the place. Whoda thunk? Turns out Faith's a real junkie when it comes to Christmas decorations.

You lie there, thinking about looking out over London and seeing ghosts in the night with a ghost as your tour guide.

Someday you'll have to tell Sorcha all about it, once she's old enough to understand.