Never Ever Tell
The story so far: This is a record of the meetings between Spike and Buffy that they never wanted you to know about. We have reached Season 7.
Buffy stared round her, as the world spun slowly to a halt. Her companion grabbed her arm as he staggered, trying to keep his balance in the soft sand.
"OK, what did you do this time?"
The vampire sounded very aggrieved. "Me? Why is it my sodding fault?"
"Five reasons, Spike - one, I'm standing here in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night holding the antique tool box I was wrapping up for Xander; two, it's bitterly cold and I want to go home. Three, it's Christmas Eve; four, I have a house full of Potentials who are upset because they're missing their families this holiday and finally and most important of all, Five, I don't think the First is going to take time off to play Secret Santa with us!"
"And again I ask, this is my fault because…?"
"Because you were the one messing about with that demon glass funnel thingy Willow found in that little antique shop. I was trying to wrap my Christmas presents when you told me if you looked through it, whatever it was pointing at, that was where you went. You must have had it pointing out of the window at the desert, because, hey, here we are!"
"I also said, if you remember, Miss Clever-Clogs, that you had to press the red button on the Szlonbe to make it work. You said it was broken and you were the one who insisted on trying to take it away from me to mend it which was why we were both holding it when it sort of buzzed. And anyway, what did you buy me for Christmas?"
Buffy glared, wishing it wasn't quite so dark because that had been a particularly good glare and it was being wasted in the desert night. "Nothing! Vampires don't do Christmas. You've told me that hundreds of times. So have you any idea where we are?"
Spike shrugged. "One bit of desert looks a lot like another to me, pet. There's sand, stones, lots of nothing."
Buffy shivered as the cold wind cut through her light top and didn't pull away when he silently placed the black leather coat round her shoulders. She peered up at the deep midnight blue sky. Thick sprinkles of glittering stars cut through the dark. "Wow, don't the stars look huge out here away from town. Look at that one up there! It's blinking. Hey, I bet it isn't a star, I bet it's a satellite. You know, Willow can tell exactly where she is in the world by the stars."
Spike pulled a face. "Red also has all these neat magic tricks up her sleeve to help her, even if she doesn't use them much at the moment. Pity she wasn't holding the Szlonbe instead of you. She'd have some idea of where we are and, more importantly, which direction we should walk to find Sunnydale."
"I think we need to go East and that's over there," Buffy said for no good reason other than she was determined to be in charge.
Spike shrugged. "We'd better start walking then and if you could manage not to let the coat drag in the dirt, I'd be grateful. And mind the bloody sheep droppings. They're every bloody where!"
Buffy glared again, but after a few yards, she had somehow managed to slide her arm round his waist and his arm lay heavily across her shoulders.
"Hey, there's some buildings down there," she said suddenly as they crested a rise, their feet slipping and sliding on the loose shale. "And I think I can see a light."
"Weird looking place, Slayer," Spike muttered. "Flat roofs. Little doors. Looks sort of foreign." He stopped, pulling Buffy to a halt. "I've got a funny feeling about this. Gives me the creeps. A Roswell repeat wasn't on the telly when you were looking through the Szlonbe, was it?"
Buffy sighed. "Spike, believe me, there are no vamps, demons, or aliens down there. I'd sense them if there were. We'll be fine. Come on, I want to get indoors out of the cold. They're sure to have a phone or a twoway radio, at least. Then we can contact Giles and he'll drive out to collect us. We'll just have to put up with the lecture about playing with demon artefacts we don't know how to use."
Spike stared around them. "Where's the road, then, Slayer? There's not even a track that I can see."
Buffy shrugged and handed him back his leather coat. "Oh, I reckon it's on the other side of the buildings. They'll have a truck, I expect. All farmers have trucks, even poor ones. They have to get their produce to market."
The vampire frowned. He still had a very odd feeling about this place. Something wasn't right but he couldn't put his finger on just what was wrong. "Bet whoever lives there won't be too pleased to see us at this time of night," he said, doubtfully.
Buffy smiled. "Well, we've got to be indoors by sunrise and there's no shelter out here, is there? And I know someone will definitely be up. Listen - you can hear a baby crying. Come on, I'll race you!" And before he could stop her, she darted away from him and sped down the slope, her blonde hair flying loose of its ribbon.
Spike grinned and skidded through the sand behind her. They ran down the slope towards the little houses, heading for where a faint yellow light shone out from a dark doorway.
And high above them the giant star Buffy thought might have been a satellite, pulsed in the midnight blue sky and thousands of miles to the West and two millenia away in the future, standing on a shelf in a little house in Sunnydale, California, a Christmas card nativity scene shimmered as two tiny new figures appeared inside it, running towards the Light.
Buffy swore under her breath as her foot skidded in something unmentionable as she reached the shadow of the first buildings. "Ewwwww. What the heck was that I just trod in?"
"Goat or sheep," Spike said absentmindedly, his better night sight steering him clear of such pitfalls. "Slayer, this place isn't right – it's – " He shrugged. Every vampire sense he had told him he wasn't welcome here, but somehow he couldn't stop himself going on. "Place seems deserted. No lights, no sounds at all. Even the baby's stopped crying."
They prowled along a narrow alleyway between blank walls. Suddenly Buffy said, "I know! It's a movie set. That's why it seems so weird. No one builds houses like these today, even out in the desert."
Spike was finding it harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other. It was the oddest sensation – as if he was fighting through an invisible barrier, but at the same time something was pulling him onwards. "Not sure about that, Slayer. There are people inside these houses. I can sense them."
Buffy shrugged, wishing her denim jacket wasn't so thin. The night air was bitterly cold. Stupid forecasters hadn't mentioned there would be bad weather tonight. But then it was probably some tactic The First had thought up to freeze them all to death.
She hefted Xander's Christmas present into her other hand, wondering why she hadn't bought him something a little lighter in weight. Antique toolboxes were OK, but heavy.
"I suppose there might be all sorts of odd people out here in the desert at night. I mean, we can't be far from Sunnydale, can we? Illegal immigrants, wacko cult people, hey, some of Willow's Wican friends often camp out to commune with the stars."
Spike's face was grim. "Well, right round this corner is something I know very well, pet. A Micthakeral demon!"
Buffy sighed and pulled a stake from her belt. "What! You mean even out here I've got to work?"
Spike grinned at her. "No, pet. Put it away. Micths are harmless. They just travel from town to town, always on the move. Just let me handle it."
Buffy raised an eyebrow. Spike's ability to talk to creatures great and small, evil and otherwise, sometimes tempted her to call him Dr Doolittle – except she knew exactly what response she would get! She pulled herself up with a jolt. No, that was last year. This year – everything was different. They weren't lovers anymore. They were –
Just then something thin, old, birdlike and very orange came into view. It swerved to a halt as it spotted them and a high-pitched chittering broke from its beak. Buffy listened, fascinated, as Spike replied with the same sounds. Then the Micthakeral pushed past them and hurried away into the dark.
"Well? Jeez, Spike, he must have said something other than hi! It sounded as if you got his whole family history."
The vampire shook his head. "I couldn't understand half, Slayer. But apparently the town's shut down because there's going to be trouble. People searching for some couple who've hacked them off, apparently. Oh and this'll please you – there's a whole pack of vamps around, scenting blood. Everyone who could got out of town last night. The rest are hiding."
Buffy sighed. "Great. It sounds like The First's work to me. I'm so not in the mood tonight. So did your orange friend mention a phone?"
Spike shook his head.
"Great. We'll just have to hang around till the morning and hitch a lift. Well, me Slayer, them vamps – I suppose I can at least get some good done tonight. Might warm me up a bit, too, a fight. Can you remember it ever being this cold before? Oh, forgot, you don't feel the cold, do you?"
"Only when you used to put your feet on my – " He stopped as Buffy grabbed his arm. In the dark they had stumbled through a tiny passageway between two walls and found themselves standing on a scrubby patch of ground. Just then the stars above all vanished at once – obviously a cloud storm was coming in from the Pacific, Buffy thought – and it was almost impossible in the dark to see what was in front of your nose.
But there were shapes moving in the shadows. She could hear the bray of a donkey, a man muttering in a language she didn't recognise – so she was right about illegals! – and the softer response of a woman's voice. Obviously the couple who were being hunted down were getting out of town.
Just then the clouds parted, the stars shone down and the darkness exploded into movement – five vamps flung themselves out of the shadows and with a yell, Buffy leapt towards them, a stake in each hand. The fight was short but furious. As Spike picked up a vamp and threw it towards her, she caught it on the stake and grinned. This was fun! Then, out of the corner of her eye she spotted the last one heading for the runaway couple. The woman was sitting on the donkey now, clutching a bundle to her breast. The man was fighting to turn the animal's head round and force him out into the desert.
With a shout, Buffy and Spike both leapt for the vamp and he exploded in a cloud of dust between them. Colliding, Spike's arms locked round the Slayer as they fell to the ground, rolling across the stony earth, just missing the donkey's hooves as the man finally got him under control and the couple headed out into the dark.
For a long minute Buffy lay, gazing down at Spike. Neither spoke. She could feel the cold hard muscles under her and knew he was revelling in the quick rise and fall of her breasts pressed against him. She wanted to tell him what she felt. Here in the dark, in this strange place, in the peace that followed a good fight, now was the right time to let him know that –
In Sunnydale, the red button on the Szlonbe time sender clicked once more and in the Christmas card, the two figures lying on the sand vanished and with a crash, Buffy and Spike were there, lying on the floor, shedding sand. They scrambled to their feet, staggering a little.
"That was – way weird!" Buffy said. "Jeez, Spike, put that thing away in the darkest place you can find in the basement. I don't want one of the girls playing with it. They could end up anywhere. I'll give it to Giles in the morning. Perhaps he can find a way to deactivate it or something."
Spike brushed sand out of his hair. For a second out there in the desert, he'd thought he'd seen on the Slayer's face something tender, something loving – but now she was all business again. Which was, of course, only right.
"I wonder how far that couple on the donkey have got?" he said. "It's a big desert. They could get lost out there."
Buffy glanced around the room and groaned.
She sighed. "In all that fighting and confusion when the vamps attacked, I dropped Xander's Christmas present. They must have picked it up and taken it with them."
Spike shrugged. "Buy him another one."
Buffy glared. She so did not have enough money to do that. "Oh well, it is Christmas. They looked as if they could do with all the gifts they could get. I just hope they can find a good use for a box full of antique carpenter's tools."
And two millennia and thousands of miles away, a little donkey pattered along a track away from Bethlehem and into the desert and safety.