Santa Claws by Lilachigh
Chap 16 Parenting
The crypt smelt of blood - Dawn, Buffy, Eric, Spike - everyone had cuts and wounds and Buffy could see that Spike was struggling to stop himself running his tongue across bleeding hands and faces.
Eric was sitting on the floor, his back to the stone wall, knees drawn up to his chin, his face with its silver fur buried out of sight, refusing to talk. Buffy crossed the crypt and knelt in front of him. She reached out a hand, but he pulled away as if scared she would hurt him. “Eric - listen - ” She hesitated. What could she say? No one’s going to hurt your mom? Right, he was totally going to believe that!
There was a rush and rustle and Dawn dropped to her knees beside her. “Eric! Stop being such a big baby. It’s wonderful that your mom is still alive. I only wish ours - well, even if she’d been a Sylvamalkyn, she wouldn’t have been dead and that’s what matters.”
A big sniff but the boy still refused to look at them. Buffy tried again. “No one’s angry with you, Eric, but why did you make us believe she’d died?”
“Didn’t want her being hunted.” The words were muffled and indistinct and suddenly Spike swooped across the room, lifted the child bodily and sat him down on a stone coffin lid in the middle of the room.
“Right! Enough dramatics, kid. “
“Spike! He’s only a little boy!”
“Listen, pet. He’s not just a little boy, he’s a little demon as well. Far tougher than you or me in some ways. OK, Eric. Tell us about your mother. We want to help. Trust us. You know we will if we can.”
Eric wiped a furry nose across a furry arm and sat up straighter.
“Right, your dad died when the Sweet, the Dancing Demon came to town. Fact.”
Buffy flinched; she knew the man had burnt to death and even if Eric was a demon and as tough as Spike proclaimed, it still wasn’t good to hear that. But luckily he went no further.
Eric nodded. “When dad died, my mom didn’t know what to do with me. She was born Sylvamalkyn; lots of those people in the trees tonight are uncles, an’ aunts, an’ cousins of mine.”
Dawn frowned. “But she married your dad, who was just a normal human?”
“Yes. I don’t know why.”
Buffy glanced swiftly across at Spike: she knew. Demon and human, vampire and human: it didn’t seem to matter about the combination, or the fact that most people would find the whole relationship wrong - if the attraction was there it would overcome everything.
Eric sniffed again and went on - “Mom said I couldn’t go with her ‘cos I’m only a half so she put me in the orphanage and hoped I’d find a nice home. I thought you and Buffy would adopt me, then you became a Sylva and I thought you might take me with you and join my mom’s pack, but you don’t want to be one, do you? Then tonight - I wanted to see Mommy and there she was and then you were going to kill her...” He trailed to a halt with another loud sniff.
“Jeez, what a mess,” Buffy groaned. “Hey, Eric, don’t cry any more. We’ll sort it out somehow. Dawn - see if you and Eric can find anything to eat around here. Clem’s been crypt-sitting for Spike, so there’ll be chips and cookies somewhere!”
She waited until the two of them had clattered down the ladder into the lower crypt, then turned to Spike. “So, what the heck do we do now? We can’t just take him back to the orphanage and pretend none of this has happened.”
He held out his hand and, without a second thought, she went to him, swiftly and without a pause, their earlier argument put to one side. Forgotten? No, but the love they shared battered back all her doubts and made them seem very small and unimportant. Spike wrapped his arms round her slim shoulders and hugged her in a grip that would have broken most people’s ribs. But to Buffy it was like coming home. “Well, Slayer, I’ve got the flickering of an idea, but we’ll need to speak to Eric’s mum first.”
Buffy wriggled even closer, trying not to worry about Spike having a plan because, hey, sometimes they worked out and if it was a complete failure, she’d be there to pick up the pieces. She stayed still for another long few seconds, savouring the feel of his body against hers. Whatever Spike’s plan, she knew one thing for certain - she was not going to let him leave Sunnydale and vanish into some half-demon life without her.
A few minutes later the four of them were standing on the roof of the crypt, gazing up apprehensively at the trees above them, outlined blackly against a dark blue, star scattered sky. Buffy had tried to make Dawn stay inside, but the look she’d received in return would have killed her on the spot if looks could have killed! So she’d agreed that the teenager could watch, but had to keep perfectly silent and not interfere.
“So, what now, kid?” Spike asked. “Do you whistle or shout or do we just stand here like idiots waiting for a bus?”
“Mom will be watching somewhere,” Eric said confidently. “She won’t go away until she knows I’m OK.”
“Our mom would have done the same,” Dawn said enthusiastically. “She never let me get on the School Bus without waiting to make sure I didn’t get off again, did she, Buffy? And she was always there to meet me when I got home again.”
“Er...yes,” Buffy muttered, feeling once again the oddness of remembering something so plainly, in such detail and yet knowing it had never happened.
“And sometimes - ”
“Dawn! Sshhh.” Spike lifted a hand and gestured towards the branches above their heads. Buffy could see them moving a few yards away; whoever it was was approaching cautiously, silently. Then there was a whirl of broken leaves and twigs and the Sylva leapt to the crypt roof beside them, teeth bared, claws shining. With one swift motion, she scooped Eric up in her arms and was about to leap back into the safety of the trees when Buffy yelled.
“Please, please stop. Don’t go. We won’t hurt you. We need to talk. Please!”
The Sylva hesitated, then putting Eric down but keeping her claws firmly on his shoulders, she backed away from the others, a soft growly coming from her throat. But she didn’t leap away.
Buffy stared: the Sylva was beautiful, her limbs covered in shiny golden fur but her eyes, slanted and golden, gazed back at the Slayer with interest and suspicion. She started to speak, then gave a strange cough as if it had been a long time since she’d made any sounds other than growls and hisses.
“My son...my boy...” the words were husky when she finally managed them.
“Yes, Eric, he’s a fine boy,” Buffy said quietly. “We’re very fond of him.”
Spike stepped forward and the Sylva raised her head and sniffed at him. “You Sylva, too.”
“Eric bit me. Didn’t have much of a choice and to be brutally honest, I’d be bloody well glad not to be one.”
“Good life. Free. Exciting. With Family.” She glanced up at the trees above them and as Buffy followed her gaze, she could see the gleam of many panther eyes hidden amongst the dark leaves.
“But you didn’t take Eric with you?” Spike said.
The Sylva growled, but to Buffy it sounded more like a cry of despair than a challenge. “Not fully Sylva. Only half. Better to stay with father.”
“But now his father’s gone.” Spike’s words sounded harsh and Buffy reached out to grasp Dawn’s arm, scared that she would intervene and frighten the Sylva away.
“Yes, a human summoned a Dancing Demon and my man died. A part of me died that night too. I will never love another.”
Buffy groaned silently. Xander’s actions were still causing grief all these months later. At least he was atoning for what he’d done by taking on the role of Santa Claus, but it didn’t help the woman in front of her now, who’d lost the man she loved.
“I can understand that leaving Eric with his dad seemed like a good idea,” she said. “But it hasn’t turned out too well, has it? He’s still half a Sylva, when the moon is full. There’s no way he can keep that a secret as he grows up. Someone, or some thing is going to get him one night.”
The Sylva shut her eyes briefly and when she opened them again, Buffy could see the despair in her expression. “Can’t come with pack. No half Sylva in pack. Not allowed. Too difficult.”
“But what it he were a whole Sylva?”
Spike’s words were greeted with silence, broken only by a squeal from Dawn and then a muffled “ouch” as Buffy pinched her.
The pantheress ran her claws gently over Eric’s head, ruffling the untidy fair curls. “If that could happen, then I would take him with me and the pack would accept him without question.”
“Spike!” Dawn couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Do you mean that Tara can take the demon from you and put it into Eric? But...but....”
Spike turned to look at Buffy. “OK, not a brilliant plan, pet. What do you think?”
Buffy stared at the mother and son in front of her, her mind whirling. Eric was half demon, there was no way he could ever have a happy life as he grew older. But making him a full demon! How could she possibly take that sort of decision for a child? She wasn’t a relation or guardian - no, his closest relative was the woman holding him close to her heart at the moment. And would they be doing it for the right reasons - to free Spike from the Sylva charm, to free him to come back to her?
“Buffy! Spike!” Eric pulled away from his mother and gazed up at them, the starlight glinting on the silvery hair on his cheeks. “Please! Please! I so want to be with mommy.”
Buffy took a deep breath. She could say no and Eric would go back to the orphanage and grow up to a half life, not accepted by humans or Sylvas. She’d never really thought too much about what the future would hold for him before and for that she felt bitter regret. She’d been too busy worrying about Dawn’s brattish reaction to him, enjoying the way he and Spike reacted to each other, playing at being the mommy to a little boy herself in some sort of childish way. Then when Spike had become infected, all she could think about was his decision to leave Sunnydale, to leave her. Again, Eric’s problem hadn’t even entered her mind.
But this she realised was the sort of decision that only a proper parent could make. Eric was not hers; he belonged to the Sylva panther standing in front of her. And if she thought it was a good idea, Buffy couldn’t see that she could stand in the way of possibly reuniting mother and son.
“OK, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do or not, but if Tara will perform the spell, we’ll try and move the Sylva demon from Spike into Eric!”