The Biggest Shopping Day Of The Year


by Saber ShadowKitten
Holidays Series, Story 13





Part One



BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEE--

Buffy's hand smacked down on the alarm clock and she snuggled back down under the covers, not really even waking up. She barely noted Spike turning on his side and throwing his arm around her waist. She was about to slip back into her dream involving her mate and a limitless credit card when she sat up suddenly.

"Credit card!" she exclaimed, waking Spike up. She scrambled out of the queen sized bed and flipped off the alarm clock. "Half-an-hour!"

Spike pried open his eyes and peered at Buffy, who had rushed over to her dresser to pull clothing out. "What are you doing, pet?" he asked groggily.

"What do you mean, what am I doing?" Buffy said quickly, comfy running pants, tee-shirt, thick socks and undergarments in hand. "It's the Friday after Thanksgiving!"

The blond vampire frowned as his wife disappeared into their bathroom. "What's that got to do with anything?" he called to her.

Buffy's head popped around the corner to give him an incredulous look. "Um, hello? Where have you been? It's only the biggest shopping day of the year."

Spike lifted his head and looked at the clock, then flopped back down on the pillow with a groan. "Slayer, it's only five-thirty in the morning."

"And I'm already going to be late!" Buffy yelled to him from the bathroom.

"Late? For what? To beat the rooster's crow?"

"Spike, the stores open at 6:00 a.m.," she said, rushing back over to her dresser to pull out a sports bra. "Willow and Cordelia will be here in fifteen minutes, then we're going over to Mom's to get Faith."

He grabbed the pillow next to him and put it over his face. "I will never understand women," he muttered into the light blue pillowcase. He heard the shower go on and sighed, then got up out of bed.

Clad in a pair of dark green boxers, he made his way to the kitchen to put on the coffee for Buffy. The clock on the microwave pronounced brightly that it was 5:34. Spike groaned and rubbed his eyes. They had just gone to bed an hour before, after staying until two in the morning with his new family at a Thanksgiving dinner at Buffy's mother's house, then sitting in the car while the Slayer did a quick patrol before coming back to their apartment. He'd then had the pleasure of making love to his mate for the first time since before Halloween, followed promptly by losing whatever blood was left in his stomach from earlier in the evening into the toilet. Fully healing couldn't come soon enough for him.

*****



Buffy found Spike in the kitchen ten minutes later, staring blankly at the brewing coffee in the pot. She pressed her lips together in a thin line of worry. She knew she should have put off making love to him, especially after the very long, stressful evening with her family. But she hadn't and he'd ended up spending twenty minutes in the bathroom resting his forehead against the cool porcelain of the toilet. Now he was doing that blank-look thing that she had come to quickly hate, which seemed to always happen between the time he'd vomit up the blood in his body and feeding again.

"Spike," she said quietly, so as not to startle him. "Hey, are you alive in there?"

Spike blinked and jerked his head towards her, as if he was surprised to find her there. Then he looked her over from head-to-toe, a smile growing on his face. "You look like you're ready to do battle, luv," he commented.

"I am," Buffy replied, pushing her unhappiness away and giving him a quirky grin. She lifted her arm and flexed her muscle. "I'm pumped and ready to fight the Grammas of Sunnydale."

There was a sharp knock on the front door. Buffy went to go answer it as Spike got out a travel mug for the coffee. "Hi guys," the Slayer greeted her friends a little more subdued than she had been when she had gotten up. "Anyone want some coffee to go?"

"Not me," Willow said, bouncing as she entered the Brody's apartment. "I've already had two mochas."

Cordelia shook her head at Willow's actions. "And she is annoying the hell out of me."

Buffy closed the door behind her friends. "Just let me get my purse, and we're gone," she said, then headed back towards the bedroom.

"Hi Spike," Willow greeted the blond, who had moved to lean against the wall of the entryway to the kitchen, holding a travel mug in his hand. "It's too bad you're a vampire, or you could have come with."

"And here I was so looking forward to going, too," Spike said with fake dismay.

"Let's motor," Buffy said, reentering the living room. She walked up to her husband, took the mug, and went up on her toes to kiss him on the mouth. "I'll be home late. Get some sleep, okay?"

Spike nodded. "Have fun."

"Fun?" Cordelia said. "Shopping isn't fun, it's an art."

"And the paintbrush is colored gold," Buffy added with a grin. "Visa Gold."

Spike sighed after the ladies had left, talking animatedly about their plan of attack. He suddenly felt sorry for the hapless shoppers who got in their way. Returning into the kitchen, he turned off the coffee maker, then headed back to the bedroom. Five minutes later, he was happily asleep once again.

*****



"Spike looked pale," Willow said, once the three girls were outside of the apartment building, heading to Cordelia's car. "Not that he doesn't always look pale. I meant paler than normal."

"He looked grey to me," Cordelia said. "Like that new nail polish color 'dry cement.'"

"There's a nail polish color called 'dry cement?'" Willow said incredulously.

"And 'wet cement,' 'gravel,' and 'blacktop,'" Cordelia told her. "Don't you read Cosmo?"

"Back to Spike," Willow said. She looked at Buffy with worry. "Is he okay?"

"He was sick again," Buffy replied. The conversation paused as they got into the car, then the Slayer continued. "I hate it. He's a vampire, he's not suppose to throw up. His organs are non-functioning, for Pete's sake."

"Can we not talk about this?" Cordelia said. "Vampire regurgitation is not something I want to hear about at 5:45 in the morning."

"Since when do you know such a big word, Cordy?" Buffy asked.

"Don't worry, Buffy," Willow said. "I'm sure Spike will be fine. Angel's gotten shot a bunch of times, and he's fine."

Buffy sighed. "I guess."

"Alright, no more sobbing over Spike and his strange vampire body," Cordelia said. "We have shopping to do."



Part Two



"What about this one?" Willow asked, pulling a dress off the rack.

"Too green," Faith said.

"Is Xander going to have to wear a tux again?" Buffy asked Cordelia, frowning at the dress she'd taken from the rack. She quickly put it back.

"Yes," Cordelia replied. "The Annual Country Club Silent Auction is the black tie event of the year. I have an appointment to get his haircut on Tuesday."

"This one?" Willow said.

"Too yellow," Faith replied.

"You make it sound like Xander's a pet," Buffy said with a giggle.

"Is it my fault that he can't groom himself to save his life?" Cordelia said.

"How about this?"

"Too blue."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Buffy teased. "If you give me his leash, I'll be sure to walk him."

"Just be sure not to have the apocalypse on that night," Cordelia said. "If I miss the chance to show up Jenny Pirtonio, who's back from Brown for winter break, I will have to kill you."

"I'll call all those big, nasty demon types and tell them to postpone their plans for world endage," Buffy said.

"Here, this one's good," Willow said.

"Too black," Faith told the redhead.

"Too black? Faith, almost your entire wardrobe is black," Willow said, exasperated.

"Yeah, but this is my first Christmas dohickey thang," Faith said.

"Christmas dohickey thang?" Buffy said, looking over the racks at the other two girls.

"Well, yeah, you know," Faith said, ducking her head. "I got a, uh, date for that Bronze Christmas Eve party."

All three girls looked at the brunette Slayer for a moment, then started talking at once.

"Date?!" Buffy exclaimed. "With who? When did this happen? Do we know him?"

"Faith, that's great," Willow said. "Why didn't you say anything sooner?

"Who would want to date you?" Cordelia asked.

"His name's Chris, and he goes to college with you all," Faith said. She shrugged. "Don't know if you know him or not. But he's human, far as I can tell. And a hottie-hott."

Buffy picked up her bags from earlier that morning, then walked over to Faith and linked arms. "This calls for a mocha-break, so Faith can dish," the blond Slayer said, leading the way out of the store. "And we want to hear all the details, with full color and surround sound."

*****



"What?" Spike growled into the phone, after being woken up with its incessant ringing.

"Hey Junior, it's Xander," Xander said over the line. "What are you up to?"

"My neck in your intestines," Spike muttered under his non-existent breath.

"What was that?"

"I said I was sleeping," Spike lied. He glanced over at the clock on Buffy's side of the bed. "It's only ten-forty in the morning. Can't you leave a vampire in peace?"

"Sheesh, sorry," Xander said. "I was just calling to find out if you wanted to do the guy day-after-Thanksgiving-thing with me and Oz, since the women-folk are all shopping."

Spike sighed and put his arm over his eyes. "What does it entail?" he asked, knowing that he probably wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep after the phone call. Plus, he liked doing things with Oz, and he could tolerate having Xander around as long as the wolf was there, too.

"Television, beer and leftovers," Xander replied. "Plus the occasional trip to the bathroom."

"Sounds swell," Spike said, monotone. "Give me an hour and you can come by. As long as you bring the beer."

"Got it," Xander said. "Later."

"Yeah," Spike said, then hit disconnect. He laid there for several minutes, portable phone in hand, and tried to ignore the churning sensation in his stomach. Then he was up and darting into the master bathroom to be sick in the toilet, feeling as though someone was ripping his guts out with a knife as he heaved up thick bits of congealed blood.

He laid his cheek on the cool porcelain of the toilet rim, and wished that whatever was making him feel a little bit worse every day would just, plain stop.

*****



"You're looking...dead," Oz commented to Spike upon entering the apartment. "You feeling alright, man?"

"Never better," Spike lied. "I probably look like shit because some annoying sod woke me up."

"Hey, be nice or I'll take my beer home," Xander said, carrying a paper grocery bag in each hand. Clinking could be heard emitting from them as he walked to the kitchen.

Oz studied Spike for another moment. "You sure?"

Spike gave the wolf a smile, actually touched by his concern. "I'm sure, mate."

Oz nodded and moved into the living room as Xander exited the kitchen, juggling three open beers and a bag of pretzels in his hands. The brunette set everything down on the coffee table, then flopped down upon the couch. Oz joined him on the opposite end, and Spike sat down on the recliner.

"Who's up for football?" Xander said, snagging the remote.

"American or British?" Spike asked.

"We're in America, pal," Xander said, turning on the television. "So of course American."

"Oh, pardon me," Spike said sarcastically. He leaned forward, grabbed a beer off the table, and took a sip. He made a face at the bitter taste of barley mixed with the remaining taste of toothpaste in his mouth.

"Looks like we got a choice -- Cowboys/Chargers or Packers/Broncos," Xander said, flipping back and forth between the two cable sports stations.

"Packers/Broncos," Oz said. "Definitely."

Spike leaned back on the recliner and relaxed, half-listening to the two teens discuss each team.

*****



Giles shut the door to his home behind him, pile of mail in hand. He walked over towards his desk in the corner, flipping through the envelopes. He frowned at one with the return address of the Los Angeles Police Department. Pulling it free, he set down the rest of the mail and opened it.

The Watcher looked at the signature line. "Oh, Kim Christopher, of course," he said to himself as he began to read.



Rupert~

Sorry it took so long to get back to you with this. Small gang war. You know, the usual.

Anyway, here it is. I found something pretty odd within the bullet. Are you guys using guns to hunt vampires now?

Kim

P.S. You still owe me dinner, kid.



Giles smiled at the post script and set the letter aside to look at the report. He had forgotten that he'd sent the bullet he'd extracted from Spike to his old friend at the police department. At the time he'd prepared the request, he had thought perhaps it would help them in finding out who was behind the shooting. With Willow finding the phone it became unnecessary to send it, however, he did anyway, even though he couldn't pinpoint the reason as to why.

Now he was glad he did.

"Oh dear," Giles breathed, sinking down into the desk chair. He reread one part of the report in hopes that the words would change.

Components:

Pb 99.5%

Allium sativum 0.5%

"Allium sativum," Giles whispered in horror. "Garlic."



*****



Xander nudged Oz and gestured with his head towards Spike. The wolf leaned forward to see past the dark-haired teen, and a small frown appeared between his brows. Spike was sitting in the chair, staring blankly towards the front door.

"Spike, you with us, man?" Oz asked. The blond vampire didn't move or respond.

"Maybe he's asleep," Xander said. He glanced at Spike, then back at Oz. "Think we should go?"

"It's only polite," Oz replied with a nod.

Xander turned off the television, and the two friends stood. They took their empty beer bottles to the kitchen, then left the apartment as quietly as possible.

Spike's head jerked when the front door shut, and he blinked several times. He frowned in confusion when he found the television off and Xander and Oz gone. Just a moment ago they were arguing over who was a better quarterback, Farve or Elway.

The phone rang, and Spike pushed aside his confusion for the moment to answer it. "Hello?"

"Spike? This i-is Giles," Giles said over the line.

"The Slayer's shopping, Watcher," Spike told the man. "You'll have to use the pager to get her."

"Actually, I wished to speak to you," Giles said. "I, er, received a letter from a friend of mine who works for the Los Angeles Police Department-"

"Haven't eaten any cops lately, so it wasn't me," Spike interrupted.

"What? Oh, no," Giles said. "The letter was in regards to your getting shot. I took the liberty of sending the bullet to her in order to aid us in-in finding who had shot you."

"I thought the Slayer said that it was Trick," Spike said.

"It was," Giles agreed. "However, at the time that I had sent it to Kim, we did not know that. Until I received this letter, I had plum forgot that I had sent the bullet to her to begin with."

"I take it by your calling me, it's not good news." Spike's stomach started to churn, and he moved to sit down at the small kitchen table.

"No, it's not," Giles said. "The bullet that you were shot with had trace elements of-of-of allium sativum in it."

When Giles didn't go on, Spike got a very bad feeling. "And that means what in English, Watcher?" he asked slowly.

"The bullet was packed with garlic."

Everything went out of focus for a moment. Spike sat there, clutching the phone, trying not to be sick. He swallowed heavily and took several purposeful breaths.

"Are you still there?" Giles asked over the line.

The Watcher's sentence triggered a thought in Spike's mind. "Yeah, I am. Question is, why?"

"I'm not sure I follow..."

"Garlic kills us, mate," Spike said. "It burns just like holy water does. So why the bloody hell didn't I die soon after I got shot?"

"I...I don't know," Giles admitted. "Perhaps there wasn't enough garlic within the bullet, or-or perhaps I removed the bullet soon enough, or you bled the garlic out. It could be numerous things, such as your age, your lineage, er, your 'will to live' as it were."

"But what say I healed enough to wake up, but there's still tiny, soddin fragments of garlic left in my head?" Spike asked, already knowing the answer.

"Er, they-they would more than likely continue to burn," Giles said. "If one entered a vein or artery, they might float down to a different portion of your body before continuing to-"

"Got it," Spike cut him off. "Thanks for the head's up, mate."

"Shall I give the report to Buffy to pass on to you?" Giles asked.

"No. Just hold onto it," Spike replied. "And don't tell her. I'll do that myself."

"Right," Giles said.

"Goodnight," Spike said before Giles could say any more. He stood and hung up the phone, then managed to make it to the guest bathroom before he got sick once again. He knew, without looking at the small chunks of blood in the toilet, that some of the garlic had moved down his body and was eating away at his non-functioning internal organs.

And he also knew it would only be a matter of time before the garlic destroyed him from the inside out.



Part Three



"Well, what do you think?" Buffy asked, turning in a full circle outside of her dressing room door.

"I think you're going to be missing the Christmas Eve party at the Bronze this year," Faith said.

Buffy grinned. "So yes?"

"A definite yes," Willow said with a nod. Buffy bounced slightly as she went back into her dressing room.

Cordelia sighed and turned the page in her magazine.

"I think I'm going to go with the blue one," Willow said, examining the dresses in her hands. "Oz has hair dye this color."

"Hey, B, did you decide on the black naughty bits or the red?" Faith asked.

"The red," Buffy called over the top of her dressing room door. "I just hope Spike is feeling better by then."

"Not more 'As Spike Hurls,'" Cordelia sighed.

"If it were your husband, you'd be singing a different tune," Buffy said.

"If I had a husband, I would not be shopping at Carson's with you three," Cordelia said back.

"He'll be fine, Buffy," Willow said. "Christmas is still a month away. Lots of time for him to get better."

*****



Spike looked at the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. Smoke curled up from the cigarette in the corner of his mouth. He raised the current month to look at December. Christmas Eve was decorated with red and green squiggles with the words 'Bronze Party' scrawled across the day in Buffy's handwriting. He counted the number of days between now and then, then took a deep drag on the cigarette.

Dropping the calendar page, he picked up the phone and dialed a number he hadn't used in a long time. It rang and rang, but Spike didn't get annoyed. He just waited.

"You got money?" a gruff voice said over the line after seventeen rings.

"Five thousand down," Spike replied. "Five after."

"Hit me."

"Romani vengeance curse," Spike said. "I need it altered."

"Copy of the curse, alteration instructions, both in triplicate, and the money; locker 507, Kennedy Station."

Then the dial tone sounded in Spike's ear.

The blond vampire hung up the receiver and took another deep drag on his cigarette. He lightly hit a closed fist on the wall next to the phone and let the smoke curl in his dead lungs. After a moment, he headed back to the bedroom, knelt on the floor and pulled a shoebox out from under the bed. Opening it, he took a green floppy disk from the box of miscellaneous items, then returned the box under the bed.

He stood and walked over to the laptop computer and printer sitting on the desk in the corner. He moved Buffy's school books and booted up the laptop. A few minutes later, Spike looked at the printouts, reading over them. He took a final drag on the cigarette, then stabbed it out.

Spike set the pages on the desk and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes. An ache formed in the center of his chest, and he had to fight back the tears that formed behind his closed lids. His thumb rubbed the plain gold band on his ring finger of his left hand, and he took a long, shaky breath before opening his eyes again.

Standing, he grabbed the pages, picked up the paper bag off the bed, and headed for the front door.

On the biggest shopping day of the year, he had the most important present to buy for Christmas.

A soul.

*****



"Oh wow," Buffy said, staring at the glass figurine in The Music Box. She reached out carefully and ran the tip of her finger down the frosted surface of the glass. "I just found my Christmas present for Spike, guys."

"I thought vampires didn't have Christmas," Cordelia said.

"Think you can say that a little louder, C?" Faith asked her.

"We celebrated last year, well, kinda," Buffy said. She moved her foot out to the side and pointed down. "That's when he gave me the anklet."

"Yeah, and we didn't even know it was Spike who gave it to you," Willow chided. "You were all Miss Secretive on us."

"I didn't want you to freak," Buffy said in her defense.

"If I remember correctly, you failed," Faith said. "Xand-man and Red here were of the uber-freakdom."

"But it all worked out fine," Buffy said. "Everyone likes Spike, Spike likes everyone except for Xander."

Cordelia scowled at her. "Funny."

"I'm married and mated to the greatest man in the world, and I'm the happiest woman in the world," Buffy said with a huge smile. She picked up the figurine carefully. "And now, I'm going to be the poorest woman in the world after I get this. But still the happiest."

*****



Spike set the key to locker 507 in the back corner of the drawer of his night-stand, then closed it. He stared at the finished wood of the piece of furniture for a moment before heading to the bathroom to take a shower.

When he got out, he heard Buffy's voice floating from the bedroom as she sang a Christmas carol. He pressed his lips together into a tight, thin line and looked into the reflectionless, fogged mirror.



"The snow is falling, it's Christmas Eve
Presents are wrapped under the tree
Is there one for me?

"I only want you for Christmas, baby
I don't need nothing else
I only want you for Christmas, baby
Tie a ribbon around yourself
Oh, tie a ribbon around yourself."



Spike bowed his head, his eyes squeezed shut, a sharp pain in the center of his chest where the heart that belonged to his Slayer lay hidden. He put his hands flat on the sink and braced himself upon them, trying to stop his chin from trembling.



"I ain't gonna write no letter
To send north to the Pole
'Cause what I'm wanting this year
St. Nick don't need to know

"I only want you for Christmas, baby
I don't need nothing else
I only want you for Christmas, baby
Tie a ribbon around yourself
Oh, tie a ribbon around yourself."



The tears slipped from his eyes anyway.



End 1