Santa Claws by Lilachigh

Author's Note: Many apologies for delay in updating this story but time slipped away from me, as usual. Still, back now with a new chapter. Very short, I'm afraid, but at least it's a start!

The story so far: Spike and Buffy have told everyone of their feelings for each other. With the help of Eric, a little orphan boy, they have travelled to the world of Santa Claus, discovered that Ethan Rayne was the disastrous chosen Father Christmas. As atonement for his part in the Sweet disaster - that lead to Eric's father dancing until he burnt to death - Xander and Anya agree to take over the role and Buffy and Spike return to Sunnydale. But Dawn is jealous of Eric and Willow is jealous of everyone who is happy. The Eric reveals he is half demon and infects Spike with a Sylvamalkyn virus that turns the vampire into a panther demon when the full moon shines. Spike insists of leaving Buffy and returning to his crypt to keep her and Dawn safe. Buffy believes that Willow is researching, looking for a cure. She doesn't know that there is a simple reversal spell that Willow is keeping secret. But Eric has told Dawn just that!

Chapter 12: Like...forever

Dawn woke early - she'd left her curtains open so that the rising sun blazed onto her face - a far better alarm than any clock and easily the best way of hiding the fact from her Slayer sister that she was up and about. Today was Sunday - the only day of the week when she was actually allowed to sleep in a little longer. She reckoned Buffy wouldn't check her room until about ten o'clock, which would give her plenty of time to decide who to ask about a reversing spell for the Sylvamalkyn demon who'd infected Spike.

Dressing took moments - there was no sound from her sister's room or Willow's. Creeping downstairs, avoiding the steps that creaked, she eased the door open, trying hard not to let it creak. She backed out onto the porch, letting the catch click behind her, then squealed as her sister's voice said, "Going somewhere?"


The Slayer was sitting on the top step of the porch; she looked pale and tired, as if she hadn't slept all night.

"I...I...bad dream! Thought I'd go for a walk - clear my head." She sat down next to her sister, trying to ignore the questioning glance Buffy gave her.

"Dawn Summers! It's Sunday morning - you haven't got out of bed before nine o'clock on a Sunday even when we've been fighting demons and beasties. So come on, tell me. What's up?"

The teenager hesitated; it was all so complicated - Spike going, Eric's revelation that there was a spell that meant the vampire didn't have to stay a Sylvamalkyn, and what was worse, the fact that Willow must know about it and wasn't telling Buffy, her best friend! "I was talking to Eric yesterday..." she began cautiously.

"Oh no!" Buffy broke in. "You haven't been arguing with him again surely?"

"No, no! He's OK, for a little boy, I suppose. He's...he's very fond of Spike." She felt Buffy flinch even though she was a good foot away from her. Obviously even the mention of the vampire's name was like poking a bad tooth with your finger to see if it still hurt.

"I know he is. But he'll soon forget him. Kids do."

"Have you forgotten Dad?"

Buffy shut her eyes, pretending it was to shield them from the glare of the rising sun, but really to prevent tears running down her face. It was so weird listening to Dawn talking about a father she'd never had, although in her mind she could remember a life where he'd been important and there, loving her in his own way. And it was all false. "Of course I haven't forgotten Dad. More like he's forgotten us!"

Dawn broke off a little piece of wood, a splinter, from the edge of the wooden porch steps. "He's just busy over in Spain. It's a long way away and there's the time difference...and..." She fumbled her way into silence. "Anyway, Spike isn't going to forget us, no matter how much space you say he needs."

"Dawnie, listen, don't set your heart of seeing Spike again real soon. He might...well, he's probably left town already. He's...well, he's got certain problems and as Willow says, he can't solve them while he's worrying about us."

"Buffy - I know all about the Sylvamalkyn demony thing. Eric told me yesterday."

Her sister twisted round, her eyes wide with shock and concern. "What?"

"Buffy, it's OK to talk to me, you know. I don't understand lots of things, but I do see that you and Spike are great together and that you're unhappy he's moved out. And..." she hesitated, digging the little wooden stake into her thumb and watching a bright bead of blood bloom on the odd that it was bright red. Somehow she always wondered if one day it would be green... "I know I've been horrible about Eric. And I'm sorry. Really sorry. And I do see that it must be so hard to take because the easy reversal spell obviously only works on humans who've been infected by blood, not inherited it, but not vamps, but I'm sure Willow will find one that works on Spike if we trust her long enough. Then he can come home, can't he, as long as...well, as long as you want him to, I suppose."

Buffy was silent for a long few seconds. She stared at her sister, seeing clearly for the first time how the adolescent was slowly fading away, that a partly grown up woman was beginning to make her very capable and forthright appearance. And the worry of caring for Dawn that had settled on her shoulders for all these months since their mom's death, eased just a little. Then, at last, finally, the meaning of her jumbled words sunk into her head.

"What reversal spell? Dawn, what are you talking about? There isn't a spell of any kind - that's the whole problem: that's why Spike's determined to stay away from me - and you! He's terrified of harming us when he turns into a Sylvamalkyn. I've told him I want him here, that I'm certain he wouldn't hurt us, but he won't listen! Stupid vamp!"

Dawn suddenly didn't feel as grown up as she had done only seconds before. She felt very young and scared and - her thoughts swooped to a halt - angry. Because she believed what Eric had told her and if Buffy didn't know about the spell, then that meant Willow was hiding it from her and, more importantly, from Spike.

Buffy's hand flashed out and grasped Dawn's wrist. "This isn't some silly joke, is it, Dawnie? No, I can see it isn't. Sorry! Who told you - it must have been Eric! It was Eric, wasn't it?"

"Ouch! And Ouch!" Dawn pulled her wrist away, massaging the skin that would soon bear her sister's purple finger-prints like a small amethyst bracelet. "Yes, it was Eric, but Buffy, maybe he's wrong and Willow's right. I mean, he's only young and Willow's very clever and a witch and - "

Buffy could have sworn she felt a sort of click happen in her head and suddenly everything seemed crystal clear. "Willow hates Spike," she said softly. "She always has done. She and Xander - they've both detested him, like forever."

Dawn looked anxiously at her sister. Her face seemed pale and sort of blank, as if washed off all feelings. She felt uncomfortable: it would have been easier to know what to say if Buffy had been angry, even if she'd yelled and called Willow names. This cold, implacable expression sent shivers down her spine.

"Well, he was the Big Bad when they first knew him, wasn't he. With the biting and killing and everything..."

"That was a long time ago." Buffy stood up, pulling her hair back from her face and tying it tightly into a ponytail with a scrap of ribbon. "He's changed...we've all changed. And not all of us for the better! Spike's trying to be a good man. Jeez, he's still trying even when he's been infected by this panther demon."

"What are you going to do?" Dawn was beginning to feel scared. Willow was such a powerful witch - there was no knowing what would happen if she and Buffy got into a fight. But that was silly. Buffy was still Willow's friend, surely? She might be wrong about not helping Spike, but that couldn't wipe out years of being there for each other. Could it? "Are you going to speak to Willow? Ask her about the reversal spell?"

Buffy looked down to where her not so little sister was still sitting on the deck. She smiled briefly, not realising that made her seem even more dangerous in Dawn's opinion. "No, Dawnie. I don't think we'll bother Willow any more. We'll deal with this on our own. Come on - we're going to get Spike out of that crypt and call on someone who can help us, whether he wants to or not!"