DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet II.” Spike’s poem was written by Uisge Beatha, who kindly allowed me to borrow it for the purposes of this fic.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Robin attempted to talk to Buffy about Spike but failed, and ended up turning to Travers for aid, while Buffy and Spike are having misunderstandings about the upcoming holiday season…

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Chapter 36: See Thy Blood Warm

Buffy waited a full ten minutes after hearing Spike descend to the basement before following him down the stairs. “Give him some space,” her mom had said. “If he thinks you’re pushing, he’s either going to run away or push back, and you don’t really want either one to happen, now do you?”

The answer to that was a resounding “no,” but it just about killed her to stay in her room for so long when she knew he was only two stories beneath her. All she wanted was to go down and demand to know why he could think she’d think any less of him if Christmas wasn’t perfect, but everyone had been in agreement that that would be bad. Even Oz had bothered to comment on it.

“It would be like setting off firecrackers in the middle of a nunnery,” he’d said. “Loud, chaotic, and pretty much a terrible idea.”

So, she waited. And she hated every second of it.

Hesitating at the basement door, Buffy took a deep breath before pushing it open. “Spike?” she called out as she went down the stairs. “Are you still up?”

“Yeah,” came the tired response.

He was standing in front of the open washing machine, tossing in the t-shirt he’d worn that day. The corded muscles of his back were tense, and there was a mass of fresh bruising along his left shoulder blade. Automatically, Buffy set aside the envelope she’d been carrying and rushed to his dresser to grab the first aid kit he kept there.

“You didn’t have to patrol tonight,” she said, and cringed when her tone came across as angrier than she wanted. “Giles said he had everything taken care of so that we could get our Christmas shopping done.”

“If this is the part of your lecture where you tell me I’m treating you like a child for takin’ on some of the patrolling,” Spike said, “save it. I’m not in the mood.”

“You don’t seem to be in the mood for much of anything today.”

He slammed the washing machine shut, metallic ringing filling the close air, and whirled to face Buffy. There were more bruises covering his face, and a shallow cut over his left brow had already started healing. But it was the fire that blazed in the blue depths of his eyes that stopped Buffy in her tracks.

“I’m only goin’ to say this once,” he said. His voice was tight, his body coiled even tighter. “Maybe I should’ve said it to you sooner. I dunno. Your mum seems to think so. But tryin’ to get through to you lately---.”

“Don’t be turning this around on me, Spike,” she interrupted. “I’ve been wide open---.”

“And there you go, cutting me off again.” Long fingers ran through his hair, pulling at the loose curls in disgust as he bowed his head. He was practically vibrating from the force of his self-control. “Will you just shut the hell up for two seconds so that I can say my piece?”

She didn’t reply. Somehow, she knew if she did, it would only make things worse.

Spike took a long, unneeded breath before lifting his gaze to her again. “You know I’d rather be dust than let anything happen to you or the little one,” he said. “Ask me to step in front of the stake, and I’ll do it, no questions asked. But I’m not perfect, and I can’t fix every little thing that’s gone wrong in your life. I’d love to, but I can’t. I fuck up, Buffy. It surprises the hell out of me that I haven’t done something Rupert would consider stake-worthy yet, and we won’t even get into Harris. So this Christmas business…I know you want it to be just so. You’ve got these notions that this is goin’ to be the best holiday season ever, but you know what? You don’t have to be tryin’ so hard to make it that way. Any Christmas where you’re safe and sound is the best one, as far I’m concerned. You don’t need me pickin’ out crackers and tellin’ your mum how to make Christmas pudding in order for me to be happy about it. Wake up Christmas mornin’ with a smile, and I’ll be just right as rain. And the sooner you understand that, the happier all of us are goin’ to be.”

The speech shocked her into silence. It just wasn’t Spike’s style. Even when it was just the two of them, and their conversations meandered in directions reminiscent of her time with William, it was very much a give and take, each of them offering their thoughts and opinions in discussions that were as much about them as individuals as they were about them as a couple.

So hearing him go on in probably the longest directed announcement she’d ever heard him make was fairly stunning. Especially when some of it mirrored just what her mom and Willow had been telling her at the mall.

“I don’t expect perfection, Spike,” she said carefully.

He shook his head. The fight seemed to have gone out of him. “Yes, you do, luv. It’s just that most of the time, the only one you demand it of is yourself.”

“You don’t really think that’s what I want from you, though…do you?”

“I think…you’d prefer I keep the ripples in the pond to a minimum,” he replied. “Angel made your life a right mess, and it makes sense that you’d like to stay away from that for as long as you could. Now, I know that I’ve done the same---.”

“You haven’t.”

His brows shot up in disbelief. “Since when does gettin’ the Slayer pregnant not bugger up her life?”

“Since the Slayer is thrilled that she gets to give something back to the man she loves,” Buffy shot back. His attitude was starting to piss her off. She’d thought they were past all this.

“I know I’ve been a little weird about Christmas,” she continued, rushing on before Spike could speak and potentially turn their little spat into a full-fledged fight. “And I’m…sorry if I was being unfair. That’s why I want to make it up to you.”

Setting down the first aid kit, Buffy walked back to where she’d dropped the envelope and picked it up, thrusting it toward Spike until he took it from her hands.

“What’s this?” he asked.

She licked her lips nervously, watching as he broke the seal. “Your Christmas gift. From me. And Mom. And Willow and Oz, too, because, well, I didn’t have enough money to get it all on my own.”

Her heart was pounding inside her chest when he unfolded the bright yellow flyer for the punk revival that was happening in LA over the Christmas holidays. She’d had to beg the music shop guy to give her a copy, and even then, it wasn’t until Oz stepped in and started with the musician-speak that the guy acquiesced. It wasn’t what Willow had dragged her away from Starbucks for, but when they’d passed the shop and she’d seen the announcement in the window, all of her friend’s warnings about what Buffy was doing to Spike had seemed to sharpen. All of a sudden, Buffy knew that this was the perfect way for her to show Spike that she did understand, that she did just want the best for him. She was giving him his freedom for Christmas, a chance to have something just for himself. She was giving him---.

“You don’t want me around for Christmas now?”

He was staring at her with alarmed incredulity, his ill temper visibly returning if the whitening of his knuckles around the paper and the money it contained was any indication.

“What?” Buffy said, confused. “No, that’s not what it is.”

Spike waved the flyer in her face. “I can’t believe you want to ship me off to LA so that I don’t muck up your holiday,” he said.

“I don’t!”

“Then how do you explain the hotel reservation? And the spending money?” He threw the cash at her, but she didn’t catch it, letting it flutter to the floor as she watched him begin pacing the length of the room. “Don’t need your bloody charity, Slayer. You want me to toddle off so that I don’t grinch you and your little mates’ holiday, all you had to do was say the word. Be more than glad to be rid of the bunch of you right about now.”

“Why do you always have to assume the worst?” Buffy demanded. “Did I once say I didn’t want you around?” She didn’t wait for a reply, answering her own question in the very next breath. “No, I didn’t. I want this to be as good a Christmas for you, too, which is why I thought getting you tickets to this punk thing was such a great idea.”

“Which just happens to be in LA,” Spike retorted. “Convenient for gettin’ rid of me, don’t you think? Or should I be takin’ the hint since that’s where Peaches took himself off---.”

Her fist slamming into his jaw cut him off, and her eyes were blazing when he turned to look at her.

“How dare you,” Buffy said, her voice low and pained. “Haven’t I made my choice perfectly clear to you yet? Angel and I are over. We were over before I woke up in jolly olde England because I’d already fallen in love with you---.”

“You fell in love with William.”

“Who is a part of you.” Stooping to pick up the flyer, she jabbed a finger at the hotel information she’d written on the bottom of it. “Did you even stop to notice that this is my Christmas gift, too? It’s a suite, see? Not some rinky-dink twin room for one. A bed built for two. I wanted to be a part of something that you care for, because I’m pretty sure the idea of punk would’ve completely wigged William out. But, obviously, that doesn’t matter to you. My bad for actually giving a damn.”

Getting down on her hands and knees, she began picking up the money, her eyes stinging with angry tears. She couldn’t look at him any more. How could he think that she would just get rid of him like that? What did she have to do to prove to him how much she loved him?

When she reached for a twenty near Spike’s boot, he shocked her by crouching down and grabbing her wrist, tugging until she finally lifted her head to meet his eyes.

“You really want to come with?” he asked. His voice was quieter now, more in control, but his eyes were still dark with bewilderment.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Buffy replied. “Christmas is about family. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along. That’s why I’ve been trying to make it special for us.”

“Your mum and your friends are here, though.”

“But if you go to this punk thing, you won’t be.”

Carefully, he took the flyer from her hand, smoothing out some of the crinkles in the paper to look more closely at what it had to say. “Your mum can’t be happy about this.”

“Mom isn’t the one leading my life. But she wants me happy. She understands why I need to do this. It was her idea we get a suite. Her money, too.”

Spike nodded, though what he was agreeing to, Buffy had no idea. “Joyce is a smart lady,” he said quietly. “Lot smarter than I am.”

“That’s because you’re being a poophead.”

A single brow shot up. “You sound like Red.”

“Yeah, well, sometimes Willow’s words are the best ones.” She watched as he folded the flyer into a small square and tucked it inside his jeans pocket. “Does that mean you believe me now?” Buffy asked. “Are we going to go?”

For a long moment, Spike was silent, his gaze darting from her face to the remaining money that was still scattered on the floor. “I haven’t got your gift yet,” he finally said.

Buffy frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just…doesn’t seem right to take this.”

“Do you want it?”

“Don’t deserve it.”

“That wasn’t the question.”

Silence again, only this time, his eyes were fixed on the floor. “Most of the time…I know you love me,” he said. “And then others…I wonder when the other shoe’s goin’ to drop. You’ve been so wrapped up in makin’ this holiday better than last year, and I thought…and then seein’ this thing was in LA. You don’t even talk about Angel any more, Buffy, and I wonder why that is.”

“Angel’s not a part of my life. That’s why I don’t talk about him.”

But Spike shook his head. “Angel’s always goin’ to be a part of your life,” he countered. “First love and all that rot. And the fact that he doesn’t even know yet about the little one? It all makes my head spin sometimes.”

“I don’t know what else I can do to make it easier for you,” Buffy said.

“You don’t have to. This is my problem. I’ll be the one to sort it out. You just might have to knock me around a bit to keep my head straight, is all.”

“So…” She chewed at her lip. “Are we going or not?”

His answer came as a swift, hard kiss, leaving her breathless and dizzy when he finally broke away. “Yeah,” he murmured, leaning his forehead against hers. “We’re goin’. Get away from all the troubles and all the fighting and just…be.”

Looping her arms around his neck, Buffy kissed him again, this time more tenderly, trying to convey to him what her words had obviously failed. “I really am sorry about crazy Buffy and her Christmas capers,” she said. “I never meant to make this hard for you. I just wanted---.”

“I know.” His hand slipped beneath her blouse, resting over the soft swell of her stomach. “I’m sorry, too.”

As his mouth returned to hers, Spike pressed Buffy back to the floor, pushing her shirt up and out of his way to expose the rounded curve of her abdomen.

“Don’t,” she protested, trying to cover herself back up.

His hand caught hers and prevented her from doing so. “Why not?”

Buffy grimaced. “I’m fat.”

“You’re not. You’re bloody gorgeous.”

“You’re biased.”

“No, I’ve got eyes.” Shifting to lie on his side next to her, he rested his hand over her belly button, his fingertips stroking her skin so lightly that it almost tickled. “Wrote something for you the other day,” he said, almost casually. “It’s not much, but---.”

“---but you’re going to share it with me anyway,” she said eagerly.

His head ducked, almost hiding his pleased smile. “It’s just a little thing,” he repeated. “Not even finished, but…” He paused, his attention fixing on her stomach, before starting to recite.

“’My soul, though lost now
Hungers for you through the thin veil of time
My heart, though no longer beating
Yearns to awaken from the cold and live within the light of your love
Yet while my mind knows that what is lost and what is silent makes the fight futile
I will never stop searching
Never stop listening
For the strength of your soul, the beat of your heart, will save me.’”

Her hand was cupping his face, pulling his lips to hers, before he’d barely finished the poem. “You were wrong,” she murmured into his mouth. “That’s the best gift you could’ve ever given me.”

They felt the kick at the same time, and Spike jerked away, his head whipping around to stare at Buffy’s stomach.

She grinned. “Looks like Schmoo agrees with me,” she said.

He stayed quiet, returning his hand to the curve of her stomach and waiting until the baby shifted again. Only then did his features break into an excited smile.

“Knew the little one was movin’ around and such,” he said, “but I didn’t think it was that strong.”

“Her mom’s a Slayer and her dad’s a big bad vampire. Of course, she’s got a wicked kick. The little boys on the playground are going to be in big trouble.” She stopped, suddenly contemplative. “Why do you think I keep referring to the baby as she?” she asked. “Do you think my mouth knows something my brain doesn’t?”

“Doesn’t it always?” he teased.

Buffy slapped at his chest. “I’m serious.”

“I dunno. Maybe you just want it to be a girl.”

“Do you want it to be a girl?”

“Just want it to be healthy, luv.”

“I know, but…you really don’t have a preference? You don’t daydream about what it’s going to be like later?” She twisted in order to see him better. “When you pretend you’re telling the baby hugely inappropriate bedtime stories that I’ll give you hell for when I find out, is it a boy or a girl you’re seeing?”

“I don’t,” Spike admitted. “I just see you.”

Buffy smiled, and then shook her head. “Lame.”

“Can’t say I don’t try.”

“Nope. Of all the things I can say about you, giving up is definitely not one of them.” When his arms curled around her, pulling her close against his chest, Buffy breathed a deep sigh of contentment. “I hate it when we fight,” she said, her voice muffled against his skin.

“Me, too,” Spike said softly.

“I don’t think Schmoo likes it much either. She always seems to kick me more when we’re arguing.”

“Just her way of tellin’ you to shut the hell up and kiss her old man.”

Buffy chuckled. “It is not.”

“Oh? Should be, then.”

“We’d be kissing twenty-four hours a day then.”

His fingers trailed over her shoulder, coiling a lock of her hair around his thumb. “And what’s so wrong with that?”

She answered him with a kiss. Frankly, she was tired of talking. She had a feeling, Spike was, too.

*************

Joyce was prepared for the worst when the shouting started. But when the noises died down, and neither Buffy nor Spike came storming back upstairs, she put away the little marshmallows and turned off the kitchen light. There wouldn’t be any need for hot chocolate for anybody tonight.

She retreated to her bedroom, giving the young lovers as much space as she could without actually leaving her home. There was little doubt in her mind about what exactly was going on in her basement, but considering the events of the day, Joyce was prepared to overlook it this one time. It was better that the two worked through their problems. It would’ve been nicer if they could’ve done that while staying home for the holidays, but she understood Buffy’s need to give this LA trip to Spike. It would be their last chance for any alone time before the baby came. They needed to take advantage of it while they could.

The thought occurred to her while she was moisturizing, but she waited until she was done with her nightly rituals before picking up the phone. She was grateful that he answered almost right away.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be home yet,” Joyce said, leaning back against her headboard. “Doesn’t Willow usually meet with Esme tonight?”

“Yes,” Giles said. “I’ve only just returned from dropping her off.” He paused. “Is there something wrong with Buffy?”

“Just the usual, pregnancy angst. But I wanted to tell you about what’s going on so that it doesn’t come as a surprise.”

Briefly, she described the trip to Los Angeles she’d helped Buffy put together, leaving out the details of the couple’s fighting. It wasn’t her place to tell that part of the story. Giles listened with his usual sedate grace, only speaking up when she was finished.

“What about Angel?” he asked. “Is she planning on seeing him while she’s there?”

“I don’t think so,” Joyce replied. “I think this is just about Buffy and Spike.”

“Angel won’t be pleased he’s been kept in this dark this long regarding her pregnancy.”

“Angel doesn’t have a place in her life any more. He can be as unhappy about it as he wants, just as long as he leaves Buffy alone.”

“Yes, well…” There was a pause, and Joyce heard the ruffling of papers through the line. “Thank you for letting me know. I do appreciate it. I’ll start making the necessary arrangements to cover for them while they’re away.”

“You’re still coming for Christmas dinner, right? Just because Buffy won’t be here doesn’t mean you’re not still wanted.”

“Oh.” There was no mistaking the surprise in his voice. “Well, yes, actually, I’d thought---.”

“Well, stop thinking. You’re coming. Considering the size of the turkey I bought, the more mouths I have here, the better.”

They exchanged a few more pleasantries, and then Joyce hung up, content that she’d done the right thing in confirming the invitation. Everyone was working too hard these days. Christmas was meant to be enjoyed, and if she couldn’t do it with her daughter, she’d make do with the next best thing.

*************

The knock at his door surprised Robin, and he was frowning as he crossed the room to answer it.

“Maggie,” he said. She was standing on his threshold with a brightly wrapped gift balanced awkwardly in her hands. “This is…I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I missed you on campus,” she said. Thrusting the gift forward, she added, “Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you.” Robin took the gift and stepped aside, leaving room in the doorway for her to enter.

“I can’t stay.” Without the present in her hands, her composure stiffened, and she lifted her chin as she addressed him. “I was hoping you could give me some good news about the Slayer.”

For a moment, Robin regarded her. There was something too eager about her questions, something that had grown increasingly grating over the semester. He wanted to give her the information she was seeking, but at the same time, he was no longer sure that it would be used for the greater good. He’d heard the stories about what had happened to Graham Miller, how the soldier had gone missing and was now being held in solitary confinement, pulled from his classes and away from society while they waited to see if they could fully trust him.

Part of Robin feared being placed in the very same position.

“No, unfortunately,” he said. “She cancelled her last appointment, and then skipped out today as soon as the test was done.”

Maggie’s face fell. “That’s a shame,” she said. “She won’t be around next term because of her pregnancy---.” She stopped, frowning. “Have you considered sharing your background with her?” she asked. “Perhaps gaining some camaraderie with her that way?”

“Well, no---.”

“Do it. Time’s running short, and we can’t afford many more delays. Keep me updated on how it’s going.” She was half-turned when she added, “Have a good holiday, Robin. And…thank you.”

He closed the door with a heavy heart. Part of him wished he’d never accepted Maggie’s employment offer in the first place. Another part was glad that he was finally getting the opportunity to put some closure on his past in finding his mother’s killer.

At the moment, he wasn't entirely certain which part was in control.

 

To be continued in Chapter 37: Maiden Virtue Rudely Strumpeted