Santa Claws by Lilachigh

Chapter 13 Anger Management

In the gloom of his lower crypt - most of the candles had guttered and gone out hours ago - Spike lay on his bed and moodily regarded his empty Scotch bottle and wondered whether he had the energy to head out and either steal or buy some more. He vaguely remembered that this bottle had been nicked from Giles - no wonder it tasted good. He wanted to get drunk, pissed out of his brains, blotto, legless, anything to wipe out the fact that the life with Buffy that he’d only recently begun to believe might work was now over.

But going out meant finding his boots - which he sort of recalled throwing across the lower part of his crypt when he’d flung himself across his bed.

“Hey!!! Ouch!” One of the boots he’d been wondering about thudded against his nose, closely followed by the second one that hit him much further down his body and took his breath away completely until he gasped - “For God’s sake, Slayer! You trying to neuter me!”

“That - “ Buffy said primly, standing hands on hips - “was not me. Dawn’s aim is still a little awry when she’s annoyed. Mine, on the other had, gets better and better the angrier I get! Just be thankful you don’t have three feet!”

“Sorry, Spike!” Dawn had gone pink but was trying not to giggle. Spike so obviously didn’t know what part of his body to rub first.

“We came through the tunnels as you obviously have decided never to open your crypt door again,” Buffy said.

Spike swung himself off the bed and stood up; it was amazing that his two favourite women were there and he could tell from the gleam in Buffy’s eyes that there was a great deal she needed to say to him that she couldn’t with her sister standing next to her. But - his elation died.

“Buffy - I’m still a Sylvamalkyn demon - you’re both still in danger when I change. What are you doing here - apart from trying to kill me. And why are you angry? I’m only trying to take care of - ”

“Spike! Stop talking and listen. I know exactly what you’ve been trying to do and, believe me - ” her face softened - “I appreciate you caring about Dawn, but I’m part of this problem, too, don’t forget. I don’t need looking after.”

Spike found a new bundle of candles and began lighting them to throw warm yellow light around the room. He retrieved his boots and pulled them on. “I didn’t want to take any chances, Buffy. You know how I feel about you. But why the anger, pet?”

Buffy cast a swift glance at Dawn, then shook her head. “I’ll explain later. It’s complicated.”

“Spike - “ Dawn interrupted eagerly, as if she couldn’t wait a second longer to tell him the news - “There’s a spell to get rid of the Sylvamalkyn demon inside you! An easy spell. Eric told me.”

The vampire shook his head. “No, Niblet, there isn’t. I asked Willow and she told me she could find nothing to help. That’s why I left home and came back here, so you and Buffy would be safe. Eric’s just - well he’s only a little boy. Maybe he likes to think he could get cured one day.”

Dawn tossed back her hair. Really, Spike could be so infuriating. She sometimes wondered why her sister liked him so much. “He knows much more than you think. That the spell won’t work on him because his demon is inherited from his mom, but yours can be banished because you caught it from infected blood.”

Buffy stood silently, her lips twitching. Dawn in full Watcher mode was enormously interesting - she could see the bewilderment cross her lover’s face as he struggled to accept what Dawn was saying, and also that the child was growing into a young woman in front of him. Then she winced as she saw the meaning of Dawn’s words sink in. “But surely Red would have discovered - ” He stopped abruptly and the last candle he was holding snapped in two.

He glanced over at Buffy, fury in his eyes. “But why would she - ” And then he stopped as the whole scope of Willow’s treachery began to unfold in his head.

“Later!” Buffy’s words stopped him in mid-stride as he’d automatically headed for the door leading back into the tunnels. “I want the spell gone before we - before - well, I just want it gone.” She reached out a hand towards him and, as they fingers met and twined together, Spike felt a flood of love course through him. “You were wrong to leave and I was wrong to let you. But we can’t waste time talking about that now.”

Spike nodded, then pulled her effortlessly into his arms and kissed her, ignoring the groans of distaste from Dawn. “OK, Slayer. You’re the boss - for a little while! So, what’s the plan?”

“We need another witch. One who knows us, one we can trust. We need Tara.”

* * * * *

“But Buffy, of course I’ll help if I can. But why not ask Willow?” Tara had welcomed them into the tiny apartment where she now lived and had sat, long amber hair falling over her face, as Buffy had explained.

There was a pause. Dawn had curled up on the floor, leaning against Tara’s knees. Occasionally the older girl would reach down and stroke her hair and Dawn felt a glow of contentment. Willow was part of their inner family circle, but she’d never made Dawn feel as loved and secure as Tara did. She understood more about the relationship between the two witches than she let on to her sister. OK, she was a little vague about some of the details, but she wasn’t as naive as Buffy thought. What she was very clear about was that Willow and Tara had loved each other and probably still did. They’d had a dreadful row and split up but Dawn knew it would hurt Tara dreadfully if she found out how badly Willow was behaving about Buffy and Spike.

“She’s dreadfully busy - ” she said swiftly, before her sister could reply. “Big research problem, loads of nasties gathering - we didn’t want to bother her with something as straightforward as this, did we, Buffy?”

“Er - no.” And she dug Spike hard in the ribs with her elbow, just knowing without looking that he was about to blurt out the truth.

“OK, I’ll do my best.” Gently pushing Dawn to one side, she got up and crossed to her bookcase. Pulling out a couple of large, leather-backed volumes, she flicked through the pages.

Buffy frowned. She’d seen the amount of dust that had blown off the books: obviously not ones that Tara used regularly. A slight trickle of doubt ran up her spine: surely this was a good idea? She knew Tara wasn’t even half as talented as Willow, but this apparently was an easy spell. How could it go wrong? She glanced at Spike and felt herself shiver at the blaze of love in his eyes. Was this their only chance of being together again? She knew her lover; knew exactly how obstinate he could be when he made up his mind. Especially if it involved the Summers sisters. If the spell went wrong - well, jeez, it couldn’t make things any worse! But if nothing happened - if he stayed a Sylvamalkyn - then she knew he would be tempted to leave Sunnydale and she just didn’t know how she would bear it.

She clenched her fists. No! She’d had too many men walk away from her before. And she’d never really fought to keep them. But this time - this time she would never, ever
stop. She and Spike belonged to each other; they’d gone through too much, lived too many lies to keep other people happy.

“So? Is the spell in there?”

Tara turned over another page. “Well, nothing mentions Sylvamalkyns exactly, but as far as I can tell, there’s a straight-forward removal spell for animal demons that should work.”

Buffy felt a rush of relief and Dawn squealed with delight as she jumped up from the floor. Only Spike had noted the little frown that had appeared on Tara’s face, read the hesitancy in her body language.

“But ?” he said quietly.

Tara looked up at him. “Well, no biggie, but it’s a removal spell, not a reversal.”

Buffy frowned. “I don’t understand. What’s the difference?”

Spike smiled at her: his lover’s command of the English language could be erratic at times. “Reversal means I go back to what I was. Removal - well - I imagine - “

“Removal means that the demon has to go somewhere else. Into someone else! I can cure Spike, but I have to infect another person. And Buffy, I don’t think I can do that!”

At midnight on a moonless night, the Sunnydale graveyard was very dark, the tombstones showing up as black shapes against the surrounding trees. Buffy paused at the entrance, her instincts telling her there was one vampire around and one or two demons. OK, she’d give the demons a pass this evening because they didn’t seem to be doing anything icky, but she let her senses guide her towards the vampire. Not that it was difficult - she knew quite well which vampire it was - she could track Spike any where, any place, any time.

Spike had left Tara’s home minutes after she’d confirmed that she couldn’t remove the Sylvamalkyn demon from him just to put it into someone else. Dawn had jumped up to follow him, but Buffy had pulled her down again. She knew her lover too well: he needed time on his own to think about what they’d just learnt and fussing him wouldn’t help. She and Dawn had sat talking over the problem with Tara for hours until eventually Buffy had sent Dawn home with orders not to talk to Willow about what had just happened.

She’d patrolled around town, her mind only half on her job, then headed for the cemetery to find him sprawled on his back on top of his crypt roof, staring up at the dark sky where a few early stars were beginning to appear. She’d wondered if he’d decided to get drunk again after Tara’s revelation about the Sylvamalkyn spell, but there was no smell of alcohol in the air.

Buffy hoisted herself up onto the roof to sit next to him. She didn’t bother to say hi; she knew he’d sensed her coming even before she’d sensed him. “You ran off,” she said, trying to sound cheerful

“More of a strategic retreat! There didn’t seem much point in hanging around, Slayer. Tara told us the bad news; wasn’t going to do any good chewing it over, especially with Dawnie sitting there, all sad eyes and tearful.”

“She cares about you.”

Swiftly, silently, Spike sat up, turning to look at her. “And that’s why I thought I should clear out, leave Sunnydale, pet. Your sister has one or two qualities that make her formidable - loyalty and pig-headed stubborness. She won’t give up trying to find a cure for me, and that’s going to lead to a whole load of grief.”

“And you think I will give up?” Buffy asked sharply.

Spike reached out and tenderly touched her face. “No, you’re both cut out of the same piece of cloth, Slayer. But I think I have as much chance of making you leave me alone as I do of catching one of those stars up there when it falls.”

“So, what do we do next?”

Spike pulled her into his arms and together they lay, gazing up at the dark sky. “Well, tempting as it is to say, “let’s run away and live in a tree somewhere and I promise to let you shut me in a cage every full moon” I don’t fancy the idea that much.”

“Willow did that with Oz,” Buffy said softly, wriggling closer. “Perhaps that’s why she’s so determined that you should leave Sunnydale - she doesn’t want to put me through all that grief.”

Spike grunted vaguely. He was quite certain that Willow’s driving force was not one of pity, empathy or a desire to make Buffy’s life easier. He thought it was purely based on jealousy, an emotion that she’d carefully hidden even from herself for so many years it was now part of her nature and nothing she would recognise and try to change, even if she could be made to see it.

He wasn’t the brightest at working out people’s deepest feelings - more of a fangs and fist guy even after living with and loving Buffy, but he would have been blind not to have noticed that since they’d left Xander and Anya in the Santa Claus world, Willow had grown odder, more bitter. He didn’t think that the witch had any idea herself of her true feelings for the Whelp, but he’d seen too much unrequited love - god, even suffered from it himself! - not to know it when he saw it. And even if Xander wasn’t her lover, he was the closest friend she had, even closer than Buffy. Without him, she was - well, he didn’t want to imagine what she might do, what she might have done.

But if he told Buffy what he believed, it would shatter the last remnants of friendship she had for the red-head and somehow he didn’t think that would be good. While all her venom was directed at him, Buffy was safe. But a witch with a grudge against her once best friend - not a bloody bright idea.

“Well, I’ve had an idea - I’ve got a sort of a plan,” Buffy mumbled into his neck. “But it might not work. I need to talk to Tara about it.”

“If it involves me moving in the next hour or so, I say no!”

Buffy struggled clear of his arms and sat, hugging her knees. She shivered and gazed round the graveyard, her eyes automatically seeking vamps, demons, anything odd or spooky. Her instincts told her there were demons around, but none were in view so obviously going about their own business and not bothering with her or Spike. “OK, Tara said that basically the spell involved was easy - we have to take out your Sylvamalkyn demon thingy and transfer it into someone else, right?”

“Not sure if “thingy” is the correct witchy term, but yes.”

“So - what if we find a vamp just rising, transfer the demon and then I kill it?”

Spike felt a quiver of hope. It was a weird plan, but one that might just work. “So we need to get Tara on board with that and what - camp out here and wait? It all seems too easy.”

“And it won’t work!” The words quivered through the night, falling like daggers, spearing their dreams into pieces.

Slayer and vampire swung to their feet so swiftly the air shivered. They leapt off the crypt roof, onto the ground, standing back to back, falling into a fighting mode that they didn’t have to think about. Spike vamped out and Buffy reached automatically for a stake, crouching to attack. She stared round but couldn’t see who had spoken, there was no one in sight. Then a slight movement made her raise her gaze and there, on a branch of the big tree that grew next to Spike’s crypt, stood a woman.

“Vamp?” muttered Spike, then, “No, demon. Not a very big one - I’ll leave her to you, Slayer.”

“But what did she mean? And boy, she must have great hearing to catch my words from that far away! Hey - come down here and - ”

Even as she spoke, the woman leapt effortlessly through the air, her hair streaming out in a golden mane behind her. She landed, catlike, facing them, and as she raised her hands, two inch long claws glittered and shone and her lips pulled back in a snarl to show bright shiny teeth.

Buffy tightened her hold on her stake. She didn’t understand - there was no moon but the female demon in front of her was only too recognisable and got ready to fend off what was obviously a fully grown, deadly Sylvamalkyn.


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