Author's Chapter Notes:
Hopefully get last episode done in time for Christmas. Thanks for all the great reviews.
Santa Claws by Lilachigh

Chapter 5 Breaking Through

Buffy stopped walking, trying to catch her breath. Spike slowed and turned. He was carrying Eric on his back now. The little boy who'd been skipping along quite happily had suddenly got so tired he could hardly put one foot in front of the other. All his chatter had stopped and he’d fallen asleep as soon as Spike had picked him up.

"Spike, something's wrong," Buffy said. "It's getting darker and mistier and I can hardly breathe."

Spike frowned and glanced around. She was right. The towering shelves that vanished into the gloom above their heads were now shrouded with grey fog. He could no longer see to the next corner.

He swung Eric to the ground and sat down with his back to a crate labelled 'Dolls' Houses'. "We can rest up here for a while, pet. We must have walked for miles. I wonder how Xander and Anya are getting on."

Buffy sank down next to him and he wrapped an arm round her shoulders and pulled her close. "Weird place, Slayer. "He shuddered. "If this is where Santa Claus normally works, then no wonder he's in a rotten mood."

Buffy didn't reply. With every second that passed, she felt worse. But she didn't feel ill, just dreadfully depressed. She glanced across at the sleeping Eric and suddenly a great wave of jealousy swept over her.

"I suppose you've always wanted a son," she snapped, pulling away from his arm, the words coming out of nowhere.

"What?" Spike sounded stunned.

"Oh come on, Spike. It's quite obvious. The way you've been behaving towards little Mr Freckles there. All paternal and bonding. Well, being with me won't get you a child, will it? And here's one ready made. Why don't you just take him and clear off, Spike. I reckon that's what you've been planning on doing all along, anyway. After all, why would you want to stay with a Slayer? Why would you want to stay with me? Plenty of girls out there who can give you exactly what you want, I'm sure. Why not just admit it, Spike. I was an easy lay, isn't that what the boys call it. I came across for you and I'm sure you enjoyed yourself, but I reckon all the time you're wishing you were with someone more exciting, more experienced than me."

Spike's expression had changed from stunned to bewildered to shocked to angry and back to stunned again. "What the bloody hell are you taking about, Buffy? Where's all this rubbish coming from?"

Buffy stood up, rubbing her arms to try and warm them. The temperature had dropped again and her breath was now forming white clouds as she spoke. "I'm not letting you hurt me like everyone else has. I'm going on by myself. I don't want you and that rotten kid near me. I'll find the lost children and Santa Claus and sort the problem. That's what I do, don't forget. That's what I'm for!"

She turned away and started to stride off into what was now thick fog. Spike growled and vamped into game face, his eyes glowing gold. He grabbed her arm, his fingers digging deeply into the flesh and pulled her back towards him.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Buffy, what the hell’s wrong. Oh, I get it. You’re beginning to regret telling your friends about us, aren’t you? Dirty little secret out in the open now, eh? Well, don’t worry, sweetheart, I knew all along you’d freak out. I knew from the start that — ”

“Get your filthy hands off her!” Xander stumbled out of the mist and launched himself at Spike, catching the vampire off balance, he threw him against a pile of toy rocket launchers and they rolled across the ground, fists and feet punching and kicking.

Spike flung Xander off him and leapt to his feet; in a movement that seemed like a blur to Buffy, he grabbed him by the hair, tilted his head forward and with a vicious growl, glared at Buffy. “Is this what you want, Slayer? Does this make you hot? Men fighting over you. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it, pet. Blood and fists, fangs and death. Your Christmas dreams come true, eh?”

Buffy stared back into those golden, feral eyes, her heart racing. She was dimly aware of Xander’s feeble struggles to escape, the squeaks and moans that were coming from his throat.

“Oh yes, it’s all my fault again, is it? Buffy’s always in the wrong. Well, that’s your Christmas wish, isn’t it, Spike. To kill Xander! Don’t tell me you haven’t dreamt of that for years. You knew we’d have problems when he knew about us. Well, kill him, then you won’t have to deal with it and – ”

She stopped, just as Spike raised his head, the fangs that had just broken the skin of Xander’s neck, retracting and with a shimmer his human face appeared.

“Why isn’t the chip working? Buffy, help me, the chip isn’t working!”

He swayed with the effort of keeping himself in check but his dark blue gaze never faltered. He knew if he once broke eye contact with Buffy, he would be lost forever. The desire to eat, to feed was growing stronger every second. All he had to do was sink his fangs into the whelp’s neck and the hot, red, terror-laced blood would slip down so easily, so well… but – and he grabbed at the elusive thought that was fighting to survive in his brain - if he fed, he’d loose the woman he loved.

With a howl, he threw Xander to one side and clenched his fists; fighting the overwhelming need to take, bite, feed.

Buffy felt as if she was plunging deeper and deeper into a morass of despair. The only lifeline was Spike. A vampire who wanted to feed, needed to feed, and the chip that stopped him wasn’t working. So – she fought against the dark thoughts that crowded into her head – so he was holding his impulses at bay by sheer willpower because – because he loved her!

As fast as it had come, the despair lifted and her brain began to work. “Spike – listen! It’s this place that’s making us act like this. It’s controlling us somehow – ”

“It’s Santa Claus,” another voice broke in and there was Anya, falling to her knees next to Xander who was struggling to sit up, still gasping for air. “He’s altering your emotions, Buffy.”


Anya shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea, but I would guess he was a demon before he was Chosen. There’s no rule that says a demon can’t be Santa Claus – it’s quite democratic, you know - but usually they don’t make very good ones. He can’t effect me, but look at the rest of you – My poor Xander’s gone mad with jealousy, this little boy’s fallen asleep so he won’t have to cope with how unhappy he feels, Spike’s reverting to a basic vampire state and you’re going all ‘nobody will ever love me,’ Buffy, which I can well understand knowing your past history.”

Buffy still kept her gaze locked with Spike’s. He was swaying now, but still had Xander “How do we break out?”

Anya sighed. “You’ve already started. You guessed what was happening. All Santa is doing is making you remember the deepest concerns you’ve ever felt at Christmas time. Most humans are miserable at Christmas, I’ve noticed. I suppose it’s having to spend time with all those family members you never see from one year to the next, having to recall everything that’s gone wrong in your life since last Christmas. When I was a demon I always went on holiday for a week. Somewhere warm, a long way away from everyone I knew, even Halfrek because she got very cross one year because she gave me a present – it was an entrail necklace but it didn’t go with anything I had to wear and I didn’t get her a gift in return, so – ”

“Anya – how do we stop it!”? Buffy yelled.

The girl screwed up her face as she thought. “Try concentrating on all the good things in life, instead of the bad. That should work. Xander! Listen, Xander. I want you to think hard about us having sex two nights ago on top of the washing machine in Buffy’s basement. Concentrate on how happy you were.”

Buffy shuddered and shut out the rest of her words. “Spike,” she said quietly and the golden eyes flashed back into focus. “We’re being controlled. We can fight this. Give me your hand.”

The vampire stood for a long moment, then slowly, infinitely slowly, he reached out and Buffy wrapped her fingers tightly around his.

“I love you, Spike. And you love me,” she said loudly. “Everything else is in the past. I believe in the future and so will you. Right now, all we have to think about is our love. Think, Spike. Think! Remember how it is for us, how it always will be.”

As the pictures in her head grew stronger and clearer, little flames began to dance along their joined hands. She pushed her mind back over the years, gathering and cherishing every moment they’d shared on their journey to this spot. They loved each other and nothing and no one was going to spoil that for them.

Even as she watched, Spike’s face shimmered back to normal, the burnished eyes
Vanished and the sapphire she loved so much appeared once more.

And even as he pulled her roughly into his arms and held her so tightly she felt her ribs were going to break, she was aware that around them everything was changing. The mist was vanishing, the air had become softer and the light was altering. The grey and gloom were going and slowly, as if a veil was being lifted, glowing colours began to appear on the racks and shelves that surrounded them.

Screaming scarlets and crimsons, greens and orange, vivid blue and sunshine yellows, stripes and spots and a kaleidoscope of patterns as the toys that lined their pathway now became apparent.

Xander staggered to his feet, leaning heavily on Anya. He stared at Spike and Buffy locked in each other’s arms and bit his lip. He didn’t like it, would never like it, but that overwhelming sense of always being second best had vanished and along with it the desire to kill the vampire.

He stared at Anya. She was there for him; she always would be. And he realised, for the very first time, that to her he would never be second best.

Eric stirred, rolled over and blinked drowsily. He stared in wonder at the Christmas extravaganza spreading out before him and began to smile.

“Do you reckon Santa Claus has finished being cross?” he asked breathlessly.

Buffy lifted her head from Spike’s shoulder. She could still feel him shaking, as the full realisation hit him of how close they’d come to disaster.

“I think this Santa Claus is finished completely,” she said grimly. “I think this Santa Claus is about to retire!”

to be continued

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