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First Christmas by Lilachigh

First Christmas by Lilachigh


"But Spike, buying a  Christmas present for the Slayer, is that really, well, vampire-like."  Agnes Pringle thumped the dough for her snakes' tails Christmas pies and knew she was working the mixture too hard and it would turn out tough.  But to be faced with a table top covered in Spike's different ideas for a gift for Buffy Summers was enough to make anyone's cooking a disaster.

Spike ignored her, arranging and rearranging the gifts in front of him.  "She likes these vanilla smelling soaps - this bracelet is pretty - not sure about these little things - "  He waved a handful of lacey knickers in front of Agnes who shut her eyes. "And there's a useful pocket knife for trimming her stakes and…."

Agnes sighed and began cutting out little pie shapes.  She knew there was no point in arguing with Spike when he was in this sort of mood, but really - how could he possibly think of buying the Slayer a present at Christmas that would help her kill more vampires!

"They must have cost a lot of money."

The look of complete innocence crossed Spike's face  - the one that always meant he was guilty as hell.  "Oh well, Big Bad here.  You can't expect the scourge of Europe to pay for things, Aggie, even at Christmas!"

Agnes sighed again. She was doing a lot of that since Spike fell in love with Buffy Summers.  She wondered why vampires and demons had this desire to boast about how big and bad they were.  She remembered that she'd often wondered that…especially when she met one who really was very, very, very bad indeed….

*   *  *

As a recently risen vampire, Agnes Pringle considered she’d been extremely lucky. Oh not to have been Turned - although that really Was Not Her Fault because she’d had no idea that the tall, dark, good-looking gentleman sitting next to her on the tourist bus was anything other than what he seemed. She'd been flattered by his attentions and recalled that a fortune teller back home had once told her that she would meet a man abroad who would change her life.  Although, to be strictly honest, she'd also been told he would be slim and blond.

Well, she’d happily agreed to go for a cup of coffee with the stranger when the bus got back to their hotel and even when he’d peered down a dark alleyway and said, “Oh look, that poor kitten is in trouble. Let’s help it!” she’d had no qualms about following him.

She’d really known little more until she’d found herself pushing up through rough, sandy soil out of her grave. Apparently the little insurance policy she’d taken out back home in Winchester hadn’t covered her for being flown back to England if dead, and as she had no relatives to get involved, she’d been buried in Los Angeles.

And that was where her luck had started. Some kind person had dressed her in practically all the clothes she possessed, including her sensible walking shoes - the thought of being a new vampire in sandals sent a shiver down her cold spine - and because they had obviously not known what to do with it, her nice black handbag had been hooked over her arm and so came up through the soil with her.

She’d been lucky that whatever demon now resided inside her instead of her soul was a sensible sort who imparted the knowledge about what had happened next so she didn't make any stupid errors, such as walking around in daylight or touching crucifixes. Mind you, Agnes did wonder if it had been luck or her guardian angel who had broken the clasp of the little silver cross she usually wore which was tucked away in the deepest pocket of her handbag, safely wrapped in a black velvet bag.

Agnes believed whole-heartedly in guardian angels and only hoped hers wouldn’t have to work too hard from now on. She’d since met other vampires who laughed at her beliefs, saying that if there were such things, hers would have flown away as soon as she’d been Turned. Agnes had shaken her head: surely the whole point of guardian angels was to look after you, no matter what. Giving up at the first obstacle seemed a bit un-angelish. She firmly believed hers was still in place, even if looking rather ragged around the edges with a propensity for frowning.

Her luck had even continued in the first few months - she’d found a cubby-hole in an abandoned warehouse and work in the vampire laundry just down the street. She’d been very hungry for a few days - there had been one most regrettable incident in a park one evening that she bitterly regretted - then, thankfully, she’d discovered pig blood. She’d even begun to get acquainted with the tunnel system under Los Angeles, and had put out feelers as to where she could buy some proper leaf tea because to her astonishment, she still longed for a nice cuppa.

But she missed her old life dreadfully, longed to be back in her Olde Worlde Willow Tree Tea Shoppe, making scones and pastries, polishing the nice pieces of china displayed around the walls, ironing her blue and white checked table cloths. Still, there was no use in looking back. Her days of running a tea shop were gone and wouldn’t return, no matter how hard she wished.

 She wondered what would happen to her shop. She still owed the bank a lot of money so she supposed they would sell it to someone who would throw out all her precious keepsakes of seaside holidays - there was a particularly pretty donkey engraved Present from Llandudno - and make it look modern. That wasn’t a happy thought.

Some nights she managed to work through until dawn without thinking about the past, but for the last few evenings that had proved impossible. Christmas was almost here. Tonight was Christmas Eve and tomorrow - well, it would be the first time in her whole adult existence, alive and dead, when she hadn't attended the Midnight service at Winchester Cathedral.

She’d coped with not writing or receiving cards, and her fellow vampire workers had been very pleased with the pots of blood jam - no she must remember to call it jelly - she’d made them as presents. (They hadn’t wanted to do a Secret Santa. They’d said they were far too evil, although Agnes hadn’t seen much sign of that.

She was beginning to learn that it was expected that as vampires you boasted that you were the biggest, baddest, most obnoxious things around. But most of them were just ordinary people trying to get along for however much time was left for them.)

Yes, she’d enjoyed making the presents. She loved cooking but knew that her chances of doing more in the future were slim. She sighed as she worked and shifted wearily from one tired leg to another. American Christmas was so - so - odd. Every night, Unturneds dressed as Father Christmas and stood on street corners, ringing bells and collecting money for charity. Apparently there was no Boxing Day on the 26th so they were all due back at work. And although the holiday for Thanksgiving had been very welcome, it wasn’t quite the same.

It was now that she fully realised she would never go home again, never feel the soft damp of an English morning bright with Spring flowers, or stand watching a bonfire on November 5th, warming her hands on baked potatoes. Still, she’d decorated her little space in the warehouse and tonight she was determined to venture out and find a tree, even though she was so very tired from being on her feet for hours at a time.

She was getting really annoyed with the laundry working conditions. They were paid in blood and, as far as Agnes was concerned, that was only one step above slave labour. She was working on shirts tonight - they all had to be hand-folded, which was hard on your fingers because most vampire men also wanted them heavily starched. What with that and the bleach needed to remove blood stains - really, why were men vampires such messy eaters? - laundry work was very taxing, even if you were dead. She’d heard that the owner of the laundry, some high-up, important demon, was due to visit this evening to inspect the books.

“Making an obscene profit out of our labour,” Agnes muttered to Sandra, a young vampire girl who worked next to her. “No union, no health regulations, not even a blood-break mid night. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. It isn’t....American!”

“Ssh, Agnes.” Sandra glanced around, scared. “Someone will hear. You’ll lose your job!”

Agnes folded another shirt, wincing as the stiff edge of the collar rubbed more skin off her fingers. Her job was important to her, that was true. But the conditions the vampires worked in - they were wrong.

 She frowned: of course, to be fair, perhaps the owner didn’t know. Rich demons didn’t often get involved in their money making schemes. They left it to minions - like the boss of the laundry. Agnes tried hard to find good in everyone, but apart from wondering if he had unfortunately been taken over by a particularly bad-tempered demon when he was Turned, she could find nothing nice to say about her boss. When she’d given him his pot of blood jelly, he’d vamped out and snarling, shouted at her to get back to work. Mind you, she thought, hopefully, he hadn’t given the jelly back: she’d glanced into his office on several occasions and it was still sitting on his desk.

Now the office door was shut. She supposed the demon owner was in there, counting his takings. Suddenly Agnes had had enough: she would find another job. She refused to believe there wasn’t something useful a vampire could do in Los Angeles. She knew she’d been a fairly timid person back home - she’d been brought up to always turn the other cheek, to stay out of trouble and rise above the bullying that had followed her through her schooldays. But she was dead now: the same rules didn’t apply.

Ignoring Sandra’s anxious glances, Agnes took off her work coat, picked up her handbag, buttoned her cardigan, then rebuttoned it as she’d got the wrong buttons in the wrong holes. Tomorrow was Christmas Day and she knew she wouldn’t enjoy it if she hadn’t spoken out.

Ignoring the trembling in her legs, she walked apprehensively across the laundry work floor and, taking a deep breath, knocked on the office door. A mumbled “Come in,” and she was facing a smiling, good-looking man with a genial expression, who stood politely, an action rather marred by the spoonful of blood jelly he was busy devouring with far too many teeth.

“Excuse me, Sir - ” Agnes clutched her handbag to her chest and took a deep breath. “My name is Miss Agnes Pringle and - ”

The man sat back down and waved the spoon at her, his expression blissful. “My dear Miss Pringle. I was about to send for you. You, I believe, are the clever lady who made this delightful jelly.”

Agnes blinked and blushed at the admiration showing on his face. Men never looked at her like that. Even demon men. “Well, yes, but you see - ”

A rather sticky hand was extended to her across the desk. “Let me introduce myself.  Richards Wilkins III. I am so very, very pleased to meet you, and, if it isn’t too early, may I wish you the compliments of the Season.”

*  * *

Agnes came back to the world of Sunnydale with a bump: she'd spilt a spoonful of snake mixture on the table and they were hissing and spitting. She glanced at Spike, reading that beneath the 'couldn't care less attitude' lay someone who was uncertain in a way Dear Richard would never have been.  Richard whom Buffy Summers, of course, had sent on to another existence, another world, where Agnes was sure he was waiting to return when the time was right. Maybe even this Christmas! 

  "I'm sure Buffy will be delighted whatever you give her," she said gently, because at this time of the year, peace and goodwill were surely the watchwords, even for vampires.