Stars in the Bright Sky
Chapter 3: Just One Day
Buffy and Spike have helped a pregnant young criminal deliver her baby daughter and promised to take the child to relations in the country. Trapped by the sun, they are spending Christmas Eve together in a stable - and they're not making paper chains!
Buffy burrowed deeper into the straw and moaned. She ached all over. The naked leg that was lying across hers was lifted away, but Spike's arm found it's way possessively across her shoulders. "You awake, Slayer?"
"No, I'm dead! What have you done to me?" She could sense he was smiling and wished she had the energy to punch him, but all her muscles had turned to jelly and she didn't think she would ever walk again.
"That's what happens when you shag for seven hours without a rest. And anyway, I'm not feeling one hundred per cent either. You have that effect on a bloke."
"Seven hours!" Buffy moaned again. "How many times did we...?"
"Rather lost count, sweetheart. I know you screamed a lot and I had to stop you. You were frightening the horses."
Buffy threw off his arm and sat up, the memories rushing back in glorious Technicolour. "Oh God, did anyone hear me? What about Rebecca and her husband? Didn't anyone come to look after the horses? Oh god!"
Spike lay on his back and stretched luxuriously, giving her a full view of all she'd been feasting on all the long day. "I heard someone come in to fill up their hay racks and water troughs. But you had a mouthful of - well, you had a mouthful at that time, so you weren't making a noise!"
Buffy slapped away the hand that he'd reached up to her breast. "Pig! Double pig! Honest to god, Spike, one of these days, you'll push me too far."
He reached up, grabbed her arm and pulled her down on top of him. "I can push into you as far as I like, and as far as you like, pet. You know it, and I know it. Stop pretending you don't like it. Seven hours tells me otherwise!'
She knew she should throw him off, knew she had the strength to do so, but didn't. That was half the problem. With all the others she'd slept with - except for Angel - she'd had to be so careful not to hurt them. She knew Riley had tried his hardest to get fitter and stronger, because he knew she was holding back. With Angel, it had all been so tentative, so new, she had hardly moved anyway. But with Spike, she knew she could do anything to him and it wouldn't hurt - much!
When she came to again, it was considerably darker in the stable. Spike was pulling on his jeans. "Better get going, pet," he said. "Dawn will be sitting waiting for you. And it's Christmas Day soon!"
Buffy sighed and began searching for her jeans. She screwed up her nose when she found them. They were stiff with dirt and blood smears. She found where Spike had tossed her denim jacket and buttoned it across her breasts.
"I'm going up to the farm to check on Marianne," she said. She hoped the baby girl was OK. She wondered how Lucy was getting on, the young mother who was no doubt back in prison now. Buffy could only imagine how much she would be missing her baby. It had been so incredibly brave of Lucy to give her up, but at least she knew she was with her sister, not a stranger.
They'd driven several miles before they spoke. Buffy had climbed into the car, slamming the door. She'd stared out of the widow, poker-faced, as they left the farm. At last Spike glanced sideways at his companion. "Everything OK?"
Buffy sighed. "Yes. Marianne's fine. She's had a feed and a bath. She even looks bigger!"
She relapsed into silence, until Spike took his unlife into both hands and prompted her, "Why the long face, then?"
Buffy bit her lip. How could she possibly tell Spike that seeing Rebecca with the baby had made her realise all over again that this was not the sort of life a Slayer could ever expect.
"Sacrifices, luv," Spike said quietly above the hum of the engine. 'You make them all the time, and no one ever knows."
She turned to look at him. How did he know what she was thinking? It was uncanny how he was always around when she was miserable, and even weirder that he always seemed to know what was troubling her. "Comes with the Slayer territory," she said. "But on the plus side, I get to hit you a lot!"
"And other things," he retorted and was rewarded with a little grin.
When they drove up to Buffy's home, Dawn came rushing down the path to the car. She'd obviously be watching out for them. "Buffy! Spike! Where on earth have you been? Oh gross, Buffy, you smell - urgh - like a very bad drain. Don't touch me!" she squealed, as Buffy went to give her a hug. "I don't want that smell on my clothes. Go and have a shower, quick! And wash your hair. You've got - is that straw? - in it. How on earth - no never mind, I don't want to know."
Buffy turned to Spike who was still sitting in the car. "Well, thanks for the ride home. Are you coming in?"
"No. Reckon I'd better get back to the crypt and see what sort of state it's in after the long and clumsy arms of the law have been at work there."
"You are coming for Christmas dinner, though, aren't you, Spike?" Dawn asked anxiously. "I went out and got blood specially. And I've got you a present."
Spike hesitated. He was astonished to discover just how much he wanted to accept, to be part of this little family - just for one day. But he could sense the tension that had crept over the Slayer. Her shoulders had stiffened and her face had become expressionless. So, nothing much had bloody well changed. She didn't want him socialising with her friends. Even after what they'd gone through today: Lucy, Pipsqueak, their time in the barn, her stupid pride was still stopping her admitting to Xander and Willow that she was going with him.
He sighed. He wouldn't complain. If anyone needed a relaxing time off from stress, she did and having to referee between himself and the boy would not be a good way of spending Christmas Day. She wasn't the only person who had to make sacrifices, he thought. "Niblet, that sounds great," he said cheerfully. "And I've got a present for you, too. But I'll have to come round in a couple of days to collect and deliver. I'm...I'm...well, me and my mate, Clem, are going away for Christmas. Some friends of his are having a big party. In fact, this is his car and I'm going straight round to his place to pick him up."
Dawn's face fell. "Oh - oh, well that sounds like fun, I suppose. At least you won't be on your own."
"I'll be in touch soon," he promised and started the engine. "I'm off. Happy Christmas, Dawn." He realised Buffy hadn't said a word about his plans and he fought back the feeling of hurt that raced over him. She knew damn well Clem was away in St Louis. "And a very happy Christmas to you, Slayer," he said gently, and before she could reply, he drove away.
"I think I'm going to be ill!" Xander collapsed on the sofa and groaned, clutching his stomach. "Yes, definitely very ill."
"Well, far be it for me to criticise, sweetie, but you have just eaten the biggest Christmas dinner I have ever seen in all my hundreds of years of life, plus four plates of ice-cream," said Anya, sitting next to him and ruining her nagging with a gentle burp.
"That was a delicious meal, Buffy," Tara said warmly.
Willow nodded and flung herself down onto the rug in front of the fireplace. "I feel like one of those animals you see on wild-life films, a big snake or a lioness who's just eaten an antelope or – " She stopped, aware of the horrified silence in the room. "Okay, big snake not a good comparison. But hey, full here! Brain not working quite so well."
Buffy laughed. "I'm glad you all enjoyed it." It had been a good Christmas so far, except - she pushed the thought of Spike to one side. It had been a good Christmas, full stop. They'd eaten and drunk and laughed and told silly jokes. Even Dawn had been happy, delighted with all her presents, and with the energy of the young, had skipped off to visit her friend Janice after the meal.
"And if I'd invited Spike, it wouldn't have been so happy," Buffy consoled herself. "He and Xander would have sniped at each other, the atmosphere would have been very non-Christmassy, so I did completely the right thing in not inviting him. Anyway, he might have let slip about Lucy and Marianne, and I don't think the others should know, just in case the police come round asking at some stage about missing babies!"
She switched on the TV and the room grew quieter as one by one they fell asleep, Willow and Tara curled up like puppies, Anya lying with Xander's head on her lap. But Buffy couldn't relax. She watched Jimmy Stewart on the screen, then flicked channels. The last thing she needed today was to listen to anything about angels!
She prowled round the house, putting away dishes, tidying, clearing a space on the top of her dressing-table for a couple of gifts Willow and Tara had given her. She changed out of her best Christmas outfit and pulled on a pair of jeans and an old lacy top. She had to go out and patrol.
She sat brushing her hair before tying it back in a tight knot. She hesitated, then pulled open the drawer where she kept her underwear. Right at the back was a small book shaped parcel. She pulled it out and sat holding it for a long minute. It was the book of poetry she'd bought at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago. She'd told herself if was a little Christmas present for herself, or maybe she would send it to Giles, but she knew she was only pretending. She'd bought it for Spike.
But here it was, still in the house and Christmas Day was almost over. She bit her lip hard because in her head she could hear her mom's reproachful voice saying,"you seem to have lost the spirit of Christmas, Buffy. Surely it's all about giving."
Spike had given all he could to help Lucy and Marianne, or Pipsqueak as he insisted on calling the baby girl. He hadn't waited to be asked, he'd just done what needed to be done.
Buffy gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She wasn't behaving like the sort of daughter Joyce would have been proud of. She felt ashamed. She should have been brave enough to have done what Dawn wanted; invited Spike to have Christmas dinner with them. Xander and the others would have coped, one way or the other. And if they couldn't - then that would have been their problem.
"Well, he might not have come, anyway," she muttered. "OK, Clem's away, but he has other demon friends. I'm sure he'll be having a far better time there than sitting watching old movies on our TV."
But she knew that if her mother had still been alive, she would have insisted Spike came round to share in their family Christmas celebrations. She'd have heated up his blood for him, cooked him spicy chicken wings, found out what sort of ice-cream he liked best, even got some whisky for him to drink. There was no getting away from the fact - her mother had liked Spike, enjoyed his company.
Buffy made a decision and sprang up. "I'll just go up to the crypt and leave the parcel," she thought. "He won't be back yet, if at all today. I can't imagine any demon party finishing in less than two or three days! He'll probably think it came from Dawn. I'll mention it to her when she gets in. She's got that T-shirt for him. We can say the poetry book is a little extra, from the Summers family, not just from me."
Downstairs, the Scoobies were still fast asleep, the TV on low. Buffy scribbled, 'Gone patrolling,' on a scrap of paper and lodged it in Xander's hand.
It was quite chilly for Sunnydale. The streets were empty, only the occasional car speeding past. Buffy stared into the brightly lit windows as she passed, envying the warmth and laughter that she heard, people who could stay together for the whole of Christmas Day and didn't have to patrol round eerie graveyards, killing things.
A light mist drifted through the cemetery. One lone vampire, wearing a very fetching tinsel garland, leapt out from behind a tomb, determined to do battle. Buffy staked him without even breaking stride. "Nice decoration!" she said admiringly as he dissolved.
When she reached Spike's crypt, she hesitated. She knew he wasn't there, but it felt odd going in on her own. It was still his home and although she'd kicked down the door many times, she'd always known he was inside, waiting for her, so that was different. When he was away, it seemed like an invasion of privacy.
The door wasn't locked. She smiled as she turned the handle. The last time she'd been here, Spike had locked it against the police and she'd found Lucy lying in the lower chamber, just about to give birth. But now the door swung open and she walked into the crypt, ready to leave the book on the first available surface and go home.
And she froze. The crypt wasn't empty. Spike was lying back in a chair, fast asleep, a half empty whisky bottle on the ground at his side. He was dressed but might as well have been naked for the effect he had on her. His feet were bare, and his red shirt was unbuttoned to the waist, as were the top buttons of his jeans. She could see dark hairs glinting against his pale skin where the denim parted and the recollection of the wiry rub of those curls against her made every nerve in her body stand up and shriek.
She gazed round. There were a couple of empty packets of pig's blood on the table, cigarette packets scattered around - all empty. The TV was off and there was no sign of any friends. She knew then that he'd lied. There had been no party. He'd spent Christmas Day on his own, when he could have been with her and Dawn. And she also knew why. He'd known that Xander and Willow would be uncomfortable with him there, would make cheap jibes. He hadn't wanted her and Dawn to have an unhappy Christmas Day.
She was going to kill him!
In two strides she was at his side and hit him hard on his head with the poetry book.
"Wake up, you stupid, blood-eating vampire. You, stupid" - thud – "idiotic" - whack – "moron!".
Spike yelled and slid to the floor, his arms up to cover the platinum hair that was being beaten into a tangled riot of curls. "Bloody hell, Slayer. What the soddin' hell do you think - Oi - stop that. Stop it!"
He reached out and grabbed the book from her hand, tossing it to one side. She still beat at him with her fists until he grabbed them both in his hands and pulled her down on top of him. "I said stop it! What is this, beat up Spike for Christmas time? Have you run out of board games up at Casa Summers?"
"You make me so mad!"
Spike growled as he felt her nipples stiffen beneath the lacy top and rub against his bare chest. "And randy?" he murmured.
"No!" she yelled, trying to pull away, and wondering why she was kicking off her boots as she spoke. "I've got no intention of ever having sex with you again, you idiot!" she moaned and watched as her lying hands pulled his zipper all the way down.
"For heavens sake, shut up, Slayer," Spike snapped. "Stop talking and use your mouth for what it was intended!" He pulled her closer, kissing the soft skin under her ear. "God, you taste so good. I'd like to lick you all over. You taste marvellous. Sweet, like honey."
When she came round, she was lying on the stone floor, her jeans jammed under her shoulders, Spike's head pillowed on her stomach. "Happy Christmas, Slayer," he murmured faintly. "Now are you going to tell me why you were hitting me?"
She traced the line of his jaw with her finger. "You could have come to us for Christmas. Dawn invited you."
"But you didn't want me."
"I didn't want you to be on your own," she whispered. "Not at Christmas."
Spike sat up and looked at her. "You're here now," he said simply.
Buffy sat up too, hugging her knees to her chin. "Does that count?"
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Bloody hell, don't go all philosophical on me, Goldilocks."
Buffy glared at him, then began pulling on her jeans, searching for the lace top, hoping above hope that it wasn't in tatters, because going home without it was going to be mega embarrassing.
"You off then, Slayer? What a surprise."
She stood looking down at him. Didn't he have any idea how much she wanted to stay? That with him everything was so simple and straightforward. She didn't have to be cheerful and brave, if she didn't want to be. Didn't have to worry about money, lead the gang, kill demons, fret about people's feelings. All she had to do with him was live.
"Dawn will be home from Janice's soon. I have to be there for her tonight. I'm sorry, Spike."
He sighed, got up, pulled on his jeans. "Okay, I can live with that. There is no way I want to spoil Niblet's Christmas." He pushed the hair back from her eyes: the band holding it up had long broken - and kissed her gently. "Hey, give her this, will you."
He reached behind a stone bench and produced a carrier bag. "Christmas gift."
"She'll be thrilled. Thank you." Buffy turned to go. "Oh, by the way, I was hitting you with yours!" and she smiled as she slipped away. She turned in the doorway to watch him busily tearing off the now battered wrapping paper from the poetry book, his whole face illuminated by pleasure. For a second or two, the evil killer, the thing who she knew she should treat with disgust and disdain, looked like a little boy on Christmas Day, opening his parcels.
Buffy was still smiling at the expression on his face when she reached home. Somewhere a clock was striking midnight. Christmas Day was officially over for another year. She wondered what they'd all be doing next year. Would she even be alive then? Slayers learnt to live from day to day and she had no idea what tomorrow would bring.
Indoors, Dawn was home, chatting to the others. "Hey, Buffy. Good patrol? You look exhausted. Lots of vamps out tonight, I bet."
"Hey, Dawnie. Yes, enough. I - er - I bumped into Spike. He sent you this."
"Captain Peroxide has sent Dawn a present! Oh great. Probably someone's entrails," said Xander peevishly.
Dawn pulled out a squashy parcel with a squeal and tore off the paper to find what Buffy considered a perfectly hideous purse, but which was obviously the very latest in fashion considering her sister's exclamations of delight.
"There's another present," Anya said curiously.
Buffy pulled out a small round package. There was no label and it was wrapped in a plain brown bag. "Looks like Spike's grocery shopping," Xander said with a laugh. "Well, he can just go without it, whatever it is, because you're certainly not going back with it, Buffy, and nor is anyone else here."
Buffy nodded absent-mindedly, then pulled the paper off the second parcel. She turned away from the others and muttered something about going to bed, very tired, long patrol, goodnight. She raced upstairs and threw herself on her bed. She lay there in the dark, waiting for the sounds of Xander and Anya leaving, Willow, Tara and Dawn coming upstairs, saying goodnight, whispering in case they disturbed her.
As the night fell silent, she listened for the sounds of boots scraping on the trellis outside her window, the creak of boots in her room, the scent of cigarette smoke and leather, and a whisper in her ear of, "Well. Slayer, have you any ideas of what to do with my gift?"
And she smiled. A jar of honey could go a long, long way.
Happy Christmas to everyone. Will be back with more stories and to update Strip Snap on 28th Dec.