She made it during art period. All the children were asked to make a picture of their homes, in crayon. Jemima's shows a house with a porch and a tree beside it, under a large blue sky with a big yellow sun. In front of the house, three women holding hands, one with yellow hair and two with brown. And on the porch, Jemima herself, and a blond man. Also holding hands.
Both of them, and most of the porch space itself, covered over in thick black scribble.
The teacher, young, earnest-seeming, clearly embarrassed. She's wearing a twinset and pearls, pearls that she clutches as she speaks, although Buffy is pretty sure she isn't aware she's doing it.
"I . . . I have to ask, Mrs Summers. Is there something going on at home that . . . that we should know about? That perhaps you could use some help with?"
Buffy examines the picture, but more to avoid eye contact with Ms Rostovsky than anything else. She's pretty sure she understands it, but she isn't interested in parsing it out for a stranger. Privacy is pretty high up on her list of life imperatives.
"How's Jemima doing in your class?" she asks.
"Fine. Fine." The teacher smiles, leaning forward, her hand now pressed to her bosom in a gesture of sincerity. "She's an intelligent, friendly little girl. Sometimes she likes to say bad words . . . but then she's not the only one I have that problem with. And sometimes she's stubborn . . . but again, not, not extraordinarily so. Really, she's one of my best pupils."
"I'm delighted to hear it," Buffy says, smiling, rising briskly, holding out her hand. "I'll take this home to share with Jemmie's daddy. He couldn't come with me this afternoon."
"Is he . . . is he all right?" Her eyes go from the blacked over image on the paper to Buffy's face. "Not ill or anything?"
"Did Jemmie tell you he was ill?"
"No. Not as such. But surely you know, Mrs Summers, that when children draw pictures, they often use them to communicate things that"
"He's perfectly all right. We both are."
"Yes, well . . . forgive me, I don't want to pry."
Then don't, Buffy thinks.
"But . . .part of my responsibility as a teacher is . . . "
"I'm sure you're a wonderful teacher," Buffy says. "Now if you don't mind . . . ."
"She didn't actually say what she thought about it, but I could tell she was trying to figure out if I was in some kind of lesbian ménage-a-trois, and you were dead"
"I am dead," Spike says amiably. He's smiling over the picture in his lap. "She's that protective of me, is Jemmie, with the sunlight thing. That's what this is. She made the porch good an' dark. And she always likes to keep me company there. These are you an' Tara an' Dawn, standing on the lawn. Brown, brown, blonde. That's good. We'll put this on the fridge, yeah? Take down some of those imaginary puppies Jemmie's not gonna get anytime soon."
"Yeah," Buffy says, climbing into bed beside him. "Sure."
"So what did you tell her? The teacher? Did you explain it to her?"
She shakes her head. "It's none of her business."
Spike glances up. "Something about this bothers you too."
"No," Buffy says. She's plumping up the pillows at her back, and that gives her an excuse not to meet his gaze.
"It's fine. It's just a picture."
He walks his fingers up her arm, like the itsy bitsy spider. She shakes him off.
"Well . . . why are we on the lawn and you and Jemmie are on the porch? Why aren't you and I together?"
"Can't stand out in the"
"But she could've put me on the porch too. Why am I stuck with Tara and Dawn? Dawn's away at college, she barely lives here anymore. I spend way more time with you than I do with Tara. For that matter, why didn't she put us all on the porch?"
"Dunno. We can ask her."
"She's asleep," Buffy says. "Or she'd better be."
"Didn't mean right this minute."
"It looks like . . . the way she drew this . . . like we're not even together. She's with you, and . . . I'm down here."
He muses over this for a few moments. Then"'Spect she thought I'd look a bit lonely there by myself. That's all."
She takes the picture gently from his hand and sets it down on the floor before switching off the light. Spike lifts an arm to pass around her, and she snuggles down against him.
"I've just let it happen, haven't I?"
"Let her be yours. She thinks she's yours."
"You're both mine."
"That's not what I mean."
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