Description: spuffyxmas

 

 

 

A Very Spuffy Christmas (December, 2005)

Rating: PG13 through NC17

Season: an imaginary season six

Disclaimer: Not my characters, just playing with Joss’s toys 

The lovely banner (and credit for the title, lol) is by the talented Bloody tears of Life. Thank you, BLT!

 

 

Amidst my Christmas present fics for various people, I had two requests for fluffy Spuffy, so I made two separate but continuous Christmas Eve fics.  Then I remembered I wanted to make one for Tam, even though she didn’t ask, so I added a third part, taking place on Christmas day/evening.  A ficlet that grew until I had to add a fourth part; which was okay, because it gave me a prezzie for Megan!

 

 

For Spike’sDeb, who requested fluffy Christmas Spuffy:

 

Part I

 

                   “What do you mean, ‘Where’s Spike?’  It’s Christmas Eve, Dawn. He’s a vampire – you know, all with the cross avoidance and violence?  Why would he want to join a celebration of goodness and peace?”

 

                   “Because he’s Spike and he likes Christmas… and because he brought you a present and-he-thinks-he-isn’t-going-to-be-allowed-to-give-it-to you-so-I-invited-him-over,” she finished in a rush.

 

                    Buffy stopped her tree decorating and flushed.  “Why would Spike, of all people, buy me a Christmas present?” she demanded, hoping Dawn would believe her skeptical words.

 

                    Instead, her sister cocked her head in a gesture very reminiscent of the vampire in question and said with some asperity, “Because he loves you, Buffy.  You know that.  I don’t understand why you seem to be trying so hard lately to pretend he doesn’t.  Everybody knows he does – even Xander. You can’t tell me you’ve forgotten about it!”

 

                   Buffy blushed again, with genuine shame this time.  “Oh.  Oh yeah, I guess that would be a good reason to… I mean, not that he needed to get me a gift!  I certainly wasn’t expecting one.  I don’t have anything for him, and… what if he stole it?  What if he killed someone for it?  Oh, this is bad.  Very bad.  No.  We can’t do gifts.  It’s too much like—Nope.  No gifts from the vampire,” Buffy finished with a note of finality to find Dawn staring at her with suspicious eyes.

 

                  “Jeez, Buffy.  Calm down!  It’s just Spike.  He got you a gift because he loves you and wants you to have a Christmas present.  He knows we don’t have much money and I’m sure he isn’t expecting anything from you.”

 

                 “No,” Buffy admitted softly.  “I don’t suppose he is….”

 

                  “Anyway,” Dawn chattered on as she picked up another ornament, ”I invited him to come over tonight and help us decorate the tree so he wouldn’t have to fight all the Scooby snarkage tomorrow.”

 

                  “You what? Now? Tonight?”

 

                  Rather than look at her sister, to whom she addressed the shrieked questions, she ran to the hall mirror only to see a girl with circles under her unmade-up eyes, wearing baggy sweats and a lopsided ponytail.

 

                 “Um, Dawn, I’m just going to run upstairs and, um…clean-up.  Yes, that’s it.  I just noticed how dirty these sweats are and I’m going to go get some clean ones.  I’ll be right back.”

 

                    She ran up the stairs to her room before Dawn could point out that the clothes she was wearing had come right out of the dryer and couldn’t be much cleaner.  She was still staring thoughtfully after Buffy when Spike, rather uncharacteristically, knocked on the front door.

 

                    With the beginnings of an understanding smile on her face, Dawn opened the door and stepped back so that the blond vampire could come in.  He looked around quickly, noticing the half-done tree and otherwise empty room before turning to give Dawn a quick hug and kiss on her cheek.

 

                    “Happy Christmas, Bit,” he said, shrugging out of his coat and looking around surreptitiously.  “Buffy’s not here, then?”  He struggled to keep the disappointment out of his voice and off his face as he draped the coat over the banister, but he couldn’t hide it from the girl who’d spent the entire summer watching him mourn her older sister.

 

                    “She’s here, Spike,” she said softly. “She’s just upstairs.  I told her you were coming and she suddenly decided she wasn’t pretty enough and ran off to change.”

 

                  “Yeah,” he scoffed, “I’m sure that’s it. More like she ran upstairs to hide until I go aw—”

 

                  He paused, the words choked off, as an uncharacteristically shy Buffy came slowly down the stairs.  In just the few minutes she’d been gone, she had managed to brush her hair into loose curls, apply some mascara and lip gloss, and put on tight-fitting jeans and a red sweater. She slowed even more when she saw the awestruck vampire watching her.  Something about his expression was so reminiscent of the look he’d worn when she was just back from her grave that her breath caught in her throat.

 

                  Blushing slightly from the look of complete adoration on his face, Buffy pretended to be surprised to see him, completely missing the way Dawn rolled her eyes as she walked back into the living room. 

 

                 “Spike!” Buffy said brightly.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.  Dawn and I were just—”

 

                 “I know, pet.  I hope it’s alright with you.  The Niblet invited me to come over and help with… whatever you need help with, I guess.”  He spoke quickly, anxious to let her know that he hadn’t appeared without permission.

 

                 “Well, sure.  I mean if Dawn wants you here… it is Christmas, after all. Good will toward men – er – vampires and….”

 

                “Buffy,” he said too low for Dawn to hear him.  “If you want me to leave, just say so.  I don’t want to spoil your Christmas, pet.  Just wanted to… oh, bollocks!  Here!” he finished, taking a small, neatly wrapped box from his duster pocket and handing it to her.  Without looking at her to see what sort of reception his gift was getting, he took another, similar box out of his other pocket and walked in to place it under the tree with the sparse packages already there.

 

                  “One for you too, Niblet,” he said as he put it down.  “But no opening them until tomorrow.” He glared sternly at her until she sighed and nodded.

 

                  “Fine, Spike, we won’t open them until tomorrow.  Now grab some ornaments and start hanging.”

 

                   He shuffled his feet uncomfortably, glancing back towards the hallway before saying, “I know I said I’d help, Bit, but if big sis doesn’t want me here….”

 

                  Before Dawn could indignantly point out that it was her house too, Spike’s apologetic attempt to leave was interrupted when Buffy shocked all three of them by standing on her toes to kiss his cheek, saying softly, “Thank you, Spike,” before putting her own gift down in the meager stack of presents.

 

                   Dawn all but squealed in joy, as her sister continued to amaze her by saying cheerfully,  “Please don’t go.  Why don’t you help Dawn with the ornaments while I go make us all some hot chocolate?”

 

                 Fighting to keep his Big Bad image, the vampire shrugged and agreed gruffly, “Well, alright then.  Just because I promised the Bit.”

 

                  Buffy gave him a smile that said he was not fooling anyone before going into the kitchen to get out the ingredients for hot chocolate.  She searched the whole kitchen while the milk was warming, but found no sign of any of the tiny marshmallows she knew her mother used to keep around for Spike.  Reminding herself she should get some soon Just in case he comes around to visit Dawn and she fixes hot chocolate, she put the mugs of hot drinks on a tray and carried it back into the living room where Dawn and Spike were arguing over which one of them had accidentally unplugged the lights.

 

                With a sigh, Buffy put the tray down and walked over to put the plug back into the wall.  She waited while their argument wound down, then sat on the couch and gestured to the tray.

 

                 “Come on, you two.  It’s going to get cold.”  She turned to smile at Spike apologetically as she said softly, “I couldn’t find any of the little marshmallows.  I know you like them, but—”

 

                   “That’s ok, pet,” he interrupted quickly. “I… um… I brought my own.  Just in case,” he added, looking at her from under his lashes to see if she was going to be mad.

 

                    Buffy rolled her eyes, but said with surprising good humor, “Well, where are they?  You’ll have to share.”

 

                   Reaching into yet another pocket of his duster, he fished out a small bag of marshmallows and quickly brought it back into the living room, opening it and offering some to both Dawn and Buffy before dropping a handful into his own mug.

 

                    They all drank in companionable silence for several minutes before Buffy said abruptly, “The star!  Dawn, we forgot to put the star on.”

 

                    She jumped up and rooted through the box of left over ornaments until she found what she was looking for and triumphantly held up a beat-up old cardboard star.  What little was left of the glitter that had originally covered it, began to fall off and trickle down onto Buffy’s hair and face as she held it overhead.

 

                 She looked up at the top of the tree with dismay.  It was clear none of the three of them was going to be tall enough to reach the top without standing on something.  Buffy set the star down and went to get a chair from the dining room when Dawn spoke up.

 

                “Why don’t you just get Spike to lift you up, Buffy?  I mean what’s the point of having super strength if you never use it?”

 

                 She beamed innocently at the two blonds who were carefully avoiding looking at each other, smiling quietly to herself at her own cleverness.

 

                 “Well, yeah, I guess that could work… if Spike doesn’t mind….”

 

                “Oh!  Oh, no, pet.  I’d be happy to.  I’ll just—"

 

              He walked over to her, trying not to let his pleasure at being allowed to help her show on his face.  Buffy’s heartbeat increased as he carefully turned her to face the tree and placed his hands on her waist.  With the exception of her quick kiss on his cheek, it was the first time they’d touched since he came in and the usual immediate spark of electricity jumped from his hands to her body.  They both gasped, frozen in place while each tried to conquer the urges inspired by their nearness.  Hoping desperately that Dawn could not see or interpret her flaming face, Buffy faced the tree and held her arms up.  The vampire easily lifted her slight frame, holding her above his head as she reached for the top of the tree.  Glitter drifted down from the star, settling over both of them as she wiggled it around until it was firmly in place.

 

                 Dawn watched them carefully, smiling at the sight of them sprinkled with flecks of gold, before realizing that Spike was bringing Buffy down and would be releasing her soon.  Jumping to her feet, she blurted, “I have to go to the bathroom!” and raced out of the room before they had time to separate.

 

              Left alone, after clearly hearing the slamming of the bathroom door, they stood trembling with the suppressed need to continue touching.  When Buffy leaned gently back against his chest, Spike groaned and slid his hands from her waist, wrapping his arms all the way around her and holding her tightly.  He dropped his head to nuzzle her ear, reveling in the way her heartbeat sped up again and the muffled whimper struggling to get out of her throat.

 

             He slid his lips down her throat, pulling gently on the soft skin over her pulse and losing himself in the scent of her warm body.  Without a thought to being visible through the unclosed drapes, or that her sister could come back at any moment, Buffy put her own hands over the strong arms holding her tightly against the body she’d come to crave and allowed her head to loll to one side, giving the master vampire complete access to her neck.

 

            So lost were they in each other, that neither one heard Dawn come back to the entrance to the room.  The teenaged key stood there for several minutes, smiled happily at the two most important people in her life as they shared a rare moment of tenderness.  Too soon, the moment was interrupted as they both remembered her presence and stepped apart, looking with guilty eyes toward the hallway.

 

              Dawn had ducked back quickly and made a great show of clearing her throat and walking heavily as she rounded the corner and paused to admire the newly-starred tree.

 

           “Oh, that looks great, guys!  We should do this every year – have Spike come to help us decorate, I mean.”

 

             Buffy flushed and moved away from the vampire, saying quickly, “Dawn, I’m sure Spike has much more interesting things to do most years than help us with our tree.”

 

              “Oh yeah, I’m sure he’d much rather be moping in his crypt than sitting here having hot chocolate.  Not to mention the novelty of having you be nice to him for a change.”  Dawn’s voice dripped with scorn and the vampire shot her a warning growl. “Bit….”

 

             “I’m just saying.  You two look like you’re having a good time – I mean the way regular people have good times, you know?”

 

            “Regular people?”

 

             “Yeah – non-Slayer, non-vampirey type people.  You know, who don’t get off on killing things and fighting?  It’s a nice change from all the blood and yelling and—"

 

              “All right, Dawn,” Buffy held up her hand, laughing.  “I think we get the picture.”

 

              “I’m not sure you do,” she muttered, almost to herself.  “But you’re going to.”

 

             “What’d you say?”

 

             “Nothing!” she responded brightly, then gave a big yawn.  “Oh, my. I’m suddenly so sleepy.  I guess, since we’re done with the tree, I’ll just go to bed.  The sooner it’s Christmas, the sooner I’ll be able to open my prezzies.”

 

             “Right,” Spike tried to smother his disappointment.  “I’ll just be going then, leave you two to—"

 

             Moron!  She gave the vampire an irritated look before saying quickly, “Oh no.  You two don’t have to call it a night just because I’m tired.  Why don’t you keep Buffy company?  Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” or something.  I’ll just go up to my room and go to sleep.  We all know what a heavy sleeper I am.”  She edged toward the stairs, pausing to grab a ball of mistletoe off the hall table.

 

               “Oh, here, we forgot this.  Maybe you can lift Buffy up again so she can hang it in front of the door?”

 

                 She tossed it to her embarrassed sister and with a “Good night, Spike.  Merry Christmas!” she ran up the stairs and into her room, falling on the bed with a sigh.  “Well, I’ve done what I can.  I hope they aren’t too stupid to figure the rest out for themselves.”

 

                Downstairs Buffy was still bright red, tossing the mistletoe ball from one hand to the other and struggling for something to say.

 

               “Well, that was subtle,” she finally said, not looking at him.

 

              “I don’t think ‘subtle’ is in the Bit’s vocabulary, pet.   I’m sorry she—”

 

             “It’s okay,” Buffy whispered.  “I think I understand what’s going on.  She loves us both and she wants us to—" She looked up at him and said sadly, “I’ve been very selfish; keeping you away from here because I was afraid somebody would… I didn’t think about the way Dawn feels about you or consider that she might miss you.”

 

              “Or me, her,” he said quietly, reminding her that his feelings for her sister were not based completely on the long-ago promise he’d made to take care of her for Buffy.

 

              “It’s just… it’s so hard to be around you now and not want to….”

 

               “Shag my brains out?” he said hopefully.

 

               “I was going to say ‘touch you’,” she said, biting her lip and glaring at him.

 

             “I don’t think Dawn cares if you touch me, pet,” he said carefully, stepping closer to her. 

 

              “Yeah, that was pretty much the heavy-handed message, wasn’t it?” she surprised him by agreeing.  

 

              He slipped his arms around her lightly, kissing the top of her head as she rested it against his chest.  While the vampire rejoiced in the moment, fully expecting to be shoved away any second, Buffy found herself unable to resist indulging in the safe, loved feeling that being held so chastely inspired.  Where she would normally have pushed him away, refusing to admit to herself or to him that she liked it when he held her; something about having her sister’s tacit permission to do so gave her the courage to admit that she craved the vampire’s touch for more than just the great sex that she insisted was all there was between them.

 

               Her own arms, acting independently of her brain, slid around his waist and she settled against him with a contented sigh, telling herself it was just for the night and they could go back to normal after Christmas.  Or New Year’s, at the latest.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 For Bloody Tears of Life who wanted more Spuffy – a continuation of the Christmas drabble I did for Spikesdeb:

 

Part II

 

                  Spike was sure he was asleep and dreaming as he stood, arms around Buffy, sharing what could only be called an affectionate hug.  With every fiber of his being he hoped not to wake up, quite certain if he dusted right then and there that his dust would drift around forever, too happy to settle into the earth where it belonged.

 

                  The longer she stood there, happily wrapped in the arms of the vampire she insisted she didn’t love, the more confused Buffy became.  Spike made no attempt to escalate the embrace into anything else, although she could tell by his silence that he was struggling to contain the endearments and declarations of love to which she always turned a deaf ear. Giving him a little squeeze to indicate she wasn’t moving out of his embrace because she didn’t want to be there, she straightened, tilting her head up to look into his wary eyes.

 

                “I think we’re supposed to be hanging this mistletoe ball,” she said softly, knowing that her usual rejection of his attempts to show affection were responsible for the uncertain look on his face.

 

              Relieved that she didn’t appear to be regretting the moment of tenderness, he responded with a smile, “Ready when you are, pet.”

 

               This time, he lifted her up where she stood, holding her tightly and trying to ignore the fact that his face was right next to the zipper of her jeans.  Any other time, he would have taken advantage of their positions to grab the zipper pull in his teeth and slide it down, but the trust clearly implicit in Buffy’s allowing him that kind of access prevented him from taking advantage of it.  Instead, he allowed himself to take only small sniffs of the delightful scent coming from her warm body as she squirmed around trying to tie the ball to the light fixture.

 

               Buffy was more than conscious of the fact that Spike’s face was within a few inches of her suddenly damp crotch; memories of the things that he could do with his lips and tongue making her fumble with the ribbon she was trying to tie to the light.  She wanted very badly not to make the night about the violent sex that was all she normally allowed between them, but her body was responding to his nearness in spite of herself and she allowed a small moan to escape as she finished tying the ribbon.

 

                “Okay,” she murmured.  “I got it. You can let me down now.”

 

                “Don’t want to,” he growled, giving up the fight now that he could sense and smell her arousal.  Instead of letting her down, he pulled her closer and buried his nose in the apex of her thighs, nipping gently at her through her jeans. Buffy grabbed his hair, curling her fingers into his scalp as she pushed against his face with a small gasp.

 

                   Frustration with the layer of denim between them finally took its toll and he allowed her to slide down his body slowly until he could put his mouth on the bare skin of her throat, leaving open-mouthed kisses until he reached her mouth.  With no hesitation, they fell into a deep kiss, tongues and lips alternately rough and tender as Buffy melded her body with his, trusting in his ability to hold her up if her knees choose not to work.

 

                 “Buffy,” he gasped, pausing to pull on the soft skin over her pounding pulse. “Didn’t want to do this tonight, love. Was just enjoying the—”

 

                 “Neither did I,” she murmured, tilting her head to allow him better access to her neck. “Don’t want you to think—”

 

                 With a supreme effort of will, they broke apart at the same time- staring at each other from a few inches away and breathing heavily. 

 

                “We can do this,” Buffy gasped.  “We can be around each other and not be all about the sex.  We do it all the time when other people are watching.”

 

               “Maybe you can,” the vampire grumbled. “You think I wear that duster all the time just because I’m cold?”  He gestured to the very obvious bulge in his own jeans and tried to shift it to a more comfortable position.

 

                She laughed and, without stopping to think, reached out and stroked the offending body part, eliciting a heartfelt groan from the vampire. 

 

                 “Bloody hell, Slayer!”  He struggled to keep his voice too low for Dawn’s ears as he grabbed her hand, stilling it in place. 

 

                  Buffy gave him a soft squeeze, bringing another groan, then reluctantly removed her hand saying sadly, “I guess maybe you’d better go then.  I don’t know what Dawn thought she was setting up, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what’s going to happen if we keep this up much longer.”

 

                     Spike sighed, agreeing in spite of himself.  “I suppose you’re right, pet.”  He hesitated; then said softly, “I’m sorry.”

 

                  “You’re sorry?  For what?”

 

                  “For turning what was becoming the best night of my life into just another reminder that I’m a vampire with no self-control. I’m sorry, love.  Would’ve – should’ve been perfectly happy to stand there and hold you all bloody night. Didn’t need to ruin it by—”

 

                 “Spike!”  Buffy interrupted him, blushing furiously. “Don’t you think I know you well enough by now to know what you were responding to?”

 

                 Remembering how wet her underwear had become just thinking about him, and knowing how much he loved the smell of her arousal, she had no doubt what had caused his loss of control.  She struggled to relieve his guilt, while not admitting more than she wanted to about her own craving for the sexy vampire.

 

                 “Got to admit, there was a certain amount of temptation…" he responded with a grateful smile; then shrugged and said with a sigh, “Still an’ all, pet, I wish I hadn’t— was really enjoying the evening and now it’s got to be over.“

 

                “There’s always tomorrow evening,” Buffy whispered, not looking at his suddenly intent face.  She continued, still without looking at him but studying the rug with great interest, "Christmas dinner, opening presents, here…"

 

               "Are you inviting me for Christmas, Slayer?” 

 

              He refused to allow her to pretend the invitation was casual and nothing out of the ordinary. 

 

              To Buffy’s credit, she accepted the challenge in his voice and raised her eyes to look into his while she said firmly, “I am. Would you like to come back tomorrow and join us for Christmas Day, Spike?”

 

              “You know nothin’ would make me happier, love,” he answered softly.  “But I don’t want to spoil your Christmas by causing—”

 

               "If I want you here, and Dawn wants you here, then I don’t see how you can possibly spoil the day. And if anybody else tries to ruin things, that won’t be your fault."

 

                  The stubborn look on her face did not bode well for any Scoobies who intended to complain about the vampire’s presence, and he nodded, giving her a shy smile.

 

               “Alright, then, pet.  I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon. Do you want me to come early to help with anything?”

 

                 Buffy shook her head and said, somewhat shamefaced, “No, that’s okay.   Willow went on vacation with her parents and Tara is coming over to do the cooking. It’ll just be us – Dawn and me – and Tara, and Xander and Anya,” she finished quickly.

 

                 “You know the whelp is gonna go bonkers, don’t you?” Spike said with a worried frown.

 

                   “I thought you wanted people to know about us?” she said, sticking out her lower lip.

 

               He titled his head and looked at her with the barest trace of hope on his face.

 

                “Is that what this is, then?” he asked, keeping his voice as steady as he could.  “Coming out of the closet – or the crypt, as the case might be?”

 

               “I don’t’ know… let’s not make a big deal, okay?  It’s just Christmas and you’re going to be here because you’re… you’re… you’re one of us. Okay?  You’re part of Dawn’s life and… part of my life… and if Xander wasn’t such a jerk, he’d admit you’re just as much a part of the Scoobies as Anya or Tara. You have a right to be here and I have a right to invite whoever I want to and….”

 

              “Alright, love, I think I’ve got it.  Not a big deal, just my usual hanging around – except that this time when the whelp tells me to take my evil, soulless self out before he stakes me.…”

 

                “He’ll have to go through me to do it,” she said quietly.  She looked up at him anxiously. “I’m not planning to make some big announcement, you know.  It’s not like I’m going to say, ‘Hey, everybody, Spike and I are together now.  Surprise!’  We’re just going to act like you have every right to be here and… and then we’ll see how it goes. Okay?” 

 

                The vampire was touched by her uncertainly as she asked his permission to give him more recognition than he’d ever hoped for.  He stepped closer to her and touched her brow with his fingers, smoothing the worried frown away.

 

               “Whatever you want to do is alright with me, Buffy.  You know that.  Always has been, always will be.  I’ll follow your lead, love.”

 

              “I just want it to be a nice Christmas,” she said with sigh. “For everybody.  Including you,” she added, leaning into him lightly.  She glanced up as he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders.  “Especially you,” she amended, dropping her eyes and blushing.

 

                 “It will be, pet.”

 

                   He dropped a quick kiss on her forehead and stepped around her to open the door.

 

                “I’ll see you tomorrow, love.  Happy Christmas, Buffy.”

 

                  “Good night, Spike.  Merry Christmas.”  She smiled and gave him a little wave as he took his duster and walked out the door.  “Merry Christmas,” she repeated in a whisper before turning to go up the stairs to her bed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 For Tam – who didn’t ask for anything, but was supposed to get one anyway – part III of the Christmas spuffy

 

 

Part III

 

 

             Christmas day dawned bright and sunny, as befitted a holiday in southern California; in spite of the beautiful day, Buffy did her best to sleep in.  The dreams she was having in which there was a lean, muscular body sharing the bed with her, dreams in which she woke up to soft lips on her neck and murmured endearments, were making her feel all warm and snuggly and she had no desire to interrupt them before she was ready.  Unfortunately, Dawn had no interest in what anybody was dreaming and she proceeded to bang things around in the kitchen until a bleary-eyed Buffy stumbled in.

 

             “You had better have the coffee already made,” Buffy threatened. “Or Christmas will be cancelled.”

 

              Dawn gave a weak smile and shoved a cup of warm, muddy-looking water in front of her.

 

             “Uh, I couldn’t remember how to turn the coffee pot on, so this was the best I could do,” she said sheepishly.

 

             Buffy took one sip and immediately threw the rest into the sink with a groan.

 

             “Couldn’t you have waited just a little while, Dawn?” she said with a whine.  “Are you still five?”

 

               She flashed back to implanted memories of a hyperactive Dawn running around making everyone get up at daybreak to open presents on Christmas morning.

 

               “Buffy, it’s ten o’clock already.  I think I’ve been very patient.  What’s the matter?  Did someone keep you up too late last night?”  She gave her sister a sly, hopeful look.

 

             Buffy flushed and said quickly, “No. No one kept me up late, Miss Wannabe Matchmaker.  I’m just tired, that’s all.”

 

             “Oh.”  Dawn’s face fell. “So you and Spike… I mean not that I expected to wake up and find him in your room or something… but….”

 

               “He’s coming back for dinner,” Buffy replied shortly in a voice that said she clearly did not want to discuss it any further.

 

                  A voice that Dawn cheerfully ignored, squealing in delight, “Spike’s coming for dinner? With us?  Oh, that is so cool!”

 

                “He has a right to be here,” Buffy said primly, trying to not smile at her sister’s enthusiasm.  “Just like any other Scooby.”

 

                  Dawn bounced into the living room, heading immediately for the small stack of presents with her name on them.  Thanks to some foresight on the part of a still guilt-stricken Willow, the meager gifts that Buffy and Dawn could afford to give each other had been supplemented by those from Xander and Anya, Willow, Tara and Giles.  So, rather than having to wait until the evening to open their gifts from their friends and face a dismal Christmas morning, each Summers girl had a small but respectable number of gifts waiting to be opened.

 

                  Buffy found herself reaching first for the neatly wrapped box that Spike had shoved into her hand the night before.  She started to hesitate, then saw Dawn’s eager expression and finished reaching for it.  She turned it over, but there was nothing on the outside to indicate neither for whom it was intended nor from whom it had come.

 

                    She opened it carefully, pausing when she saw that the box inside was from one of Sunnydale’s better jewelers.  Almost afraid to open it and find that Spike had stolen something valuable for her, she hesitated, box in hand until Dawn snapped angrily, “He’s been working as a bartender at Williy's for a whole month to be able to buy us presents.  Stop looking at it like it was a snake and open it.  I want to see how you like it.”

 

                  With a sigh of relief, Buffy opened the box to find a multi-functional, but still-delicate, wristwatch.  The bracelet-like band was made with gold and silver links, the watch’s barely over-sized face contained in a gold case with silver trim.  She gave an involuntary gasp at the beauty of the piece, even as she made a wry face at reading about its features.  The most prominent of which was an alarm that could be set to go off just like a clock. 

             

                  Buffy hid her face behind her hair and blushed, knowing he’d given her a watch with an alarm so that she wouldn’t fall asleep in his crypt and not make it home before Dawn awoke.  She smiled at his thoughtfulness and stroked the beautiful band, not noticing Dawn’s pleased smile and hopeful expression.

 

                “Put it on,” the teenager urged, and Buffy quickly complied, finding that the band had already been sized to fit her slender wrist.  She turned her arm this way and that, admiring the way it glinted when it caught the light.  She stopped quickly when she caught Dawn beaming at her, bringing on eye-rolling and sighing from her younger sister.

 

                “It’s okay to like it, Buffy,” Dawn snapped.  “He spent a lot of time trying to come up with something you could use that would also be gifty.”

 

               “I don’t have anything for him.”

 

                Buffy’s sudden, panicky declaration softened Dawn’s face and she said quietly, “Do you really think he cares?  You’re letting him come here and spend Christmas with us.  For once, you aren’t treating him like hired muscle that’s not fit to be around real people. I think that’s probably the best present you could give him.”

 

                  Dawn missed the hot flush that covered Buffy’s upper body as she thought about an even better present to give the vampire.  Already, Buffy was planning how she could use her new alarm clock to allow her to spend the night with Spike with way he always wanted her to and that she so rarely did.

 

                Trying to take her mind off the vampire’s cozy bedroom, she asked, “Did you help him pick it out?”

 

                  Dawn shook her head, not looking at Buffy as she picked up her own small box from her favorite vampire.

 

                   “No, he did it himself.  But he showed it to me before he wrapped it and I told him it was perfect.  Did you look on the back yet?” she asked, her head whipping up as she suddenly remembered that Spike told her it was engraved.

 

                   “On the back? No, I didn’t…” She took the watch off and turned it over to find a small inscription in fine script.

 

                   “Yours forever, W” was etched into the flat gold surface.  Buffy rubbed her finger over the lettering, a small smile gracing her face until Dawn’s “What does it say?” jolted her out of her reverie.

 

             “Oh!  Oh, nothing important,” she said, quickly putting the watch back on her wrist. “Just ‘Merry Christmas’, you know.”

 

              Dawn’s face said that was the lamest thing she’d ever heard, but she didn’t pursue it, deciding just to wait until Buffy took it off again to read it for herself. The girls then addressed themselves to the rest of the gifts, alternately displaying and oohing over them until they had unwrapped and examined everything.  If either girl was upset by the practicality of most of the presents, she didn’t show it; pretending to be just as exciting about getting new socks and underwear as she would be to get a new CD.

 

               Dawn’s gift from Spike was one of the few non-essential gift items opened.  He had given her a silver bracelet from the same jewelry store from which he’d purchased Buffy’s gift and she promptly put in on her arm in imitation of Buffy’s response. 

 

              When the usable wrapping paper and ribbons had been carefully folded away and the non-usable debris thrown out, they each went back to their rooms to shower and dress for the coming meal preparation.  By the time that Tara arrived at noon, both Dawn and Buffy were dressed and ready to help.  They waited expectantly while Tara got the turkey out of the refrigerator and began to make the stuffing.

 

              As soon as she was assured that the meal was well under way and nothing more could be done until almost the last minute, Buffy excused herself and went upstairs to change for dinner.  She went through her closet, searching for just the right combination of seasonal sexiness, finally settling on a long, black skirt and tight-fitting red sweater.  The sweater had three-quarter length sleeves, leaving her newest jewelry acquisition clearly visible on her wrist. 

 

            She added gold earrings, and a silver ring to compliment the mixed metal on her new watch, brushed her hair, added mascara, blush and gloss – then stepped back to evaluate her look.  She refused to admit to herself that she was dressing for Spike.  This just happens to be the best outfit for the occasion. And, of course I would wear the watch, because I have to know when to start the rest of the food and when to get it out of the oven and….

 

           In an unusual moment of honesty, she admitted that she was looking forward to seeing Spike, and that she had dressed in a manner she hoped he would like.  The moment of honesty ended quickly as she refused to consider the ramifications of those feelings and swished out of her room, ready to greet her guests.

 

              Dawn and Tara were sitting in the living room, the witch watching with tolerant amusement as Dawn displayed each and every item twice over. Buffy arrived just as her sister was showing off her new bracelet and she watched closely as Tara didn’t blink at hearing who had given it to her.  She admired it with a small smile and then beckoned Buffy into the room.

 

          ‘I hear you got some new jewelry too,” she said gently.  “May I see it?”

 

         Buffy gave Dawn a glare before remembering that Tara actually knew more about her relationship with Spike than Dawn did. Relaxing a little, she held out her left arm, blushing when Tara exclaimed over the beautiful and practical gift.

 

            “He’s coming for dinner,” Buffy blurted out, as Tara admired the watch.  “I think that’s okay, don’t you?”

 

              “I think it’s more than okay, Buffy.  You know that.  He belongs here just as much as I do.”

 

               “Let’s hope everyone else thinks so,” Buffy said wryly as the front door was pushed open and Xander and Anya came in with a flurry of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Solstice” wishes. 

 

                After gifts had been dutiful presented again and admired – with Anya commenting on the apparent monetary value of each one – the small group moved to the kitchen to help Tara with the dinner.  They arrived just in time to jump out of the way of the smoking blanket under which Spike was trying to hide.

 

              Xander’s attempt to demand an explanation for the vampire’s presence was drowned out by Dawn’s squeal of delight and loud expressions of gratitude for her bracelet.

 

               “That appears to be quite valuable, although not nearly so much as Buffy’s new watch,” Anya volunteered helpfully as the embarrassed vampire returned Dawn’s grateful hug.

 

               Xander’s eyes swiveled to Buffy.  He had not actually noticed the new wristwatch on her bare arm, having been more interested in how beautiful she looked in the elegant skirt and tight sweater.  Now his eye was drawn to the gleaming piece of jewelry and even he could figure out that it must have come from the same place and person as Dawn’s new bracelet.

 

              His face darkened as he took in the flush on Buffy’s face and the sheepish grin on the vampire’s.  As Spike shrugged out of his duster, revealing a blue dress shirt over a black turtleneck and dress pants instead of his usual black denim the young man whirled and left the kitchen, throwing himself onto the couch and turning on the television.

 

              There was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds, during which Anya appeared uncharacteristically abashed.

 

              “I’m sorry, Spike,” she said directly to the vampire. ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean to be rude – well, actually, he probably did—but that’s what he always says to people when he thinks I’ve done something inappropriate, so it seemed like the right thing to say.”

 

                  She looked around to see if she’d done the right thing, heartened when she met smiles of approval from almost everyone.  Everyone except the Slayer who was glaring towards the living room. 

 

                   “Buffy, that is a very scary expression you’re wearing and I would appreciate it if you did not wear it when you are looking at my boyfriend.  I apologized for him and that should make it okay.”

 

                   Buffy cut her eyes towards Anya, who flinched back unconsciously, then Buffy relaxed and let out her breath in a deep sigh.

 

                   “It’s all right, Anya.  I’ll give him some time to get over it.”

 

                  No one commented or questioned what “it” it was that Xander was going to need to get over.  Spike’s very presence, his unusual dress and the gleaming band on Buffy’s arm all spoke for themselves.  There was no need for the big announcement she’d assured Spike she wasn’t going to make; everyone in the room knew that there had been an important shift in the relationship between the Slayer and the chipped vampire.  Xander’s retreat to the loud TV set made his position on the change very clear and it cast a temporary pall over the celebration.

 

                 Spike’s eyes and face couldn’t hide the way he felt at seeing Buffy wearing his gift and she blushed when she saw him looking at her with open adoration.  He took his cue from her and when she didn’t run to embrace him as Dawn had, but merely smiled and thanked him for the lovely gift, he nodded back and told her she was more than welcome.

 

                 “I’m glad you like it, pet,” he said quietly, moving to her side.

 

                 “I love it,” she whispered back, more because he was standing so close it was taking her breath away than to keep anyone from hearing.

 

                 Before they could move, Anya whipped a disposable camera off the counter and quickly snapped a photo of the two beautiful blonds in their nice clothes.  She started to put it down, but Dawn grabbed it and said, “Just a couple more.  You guys look so good today!”

 

              Buffy grabbed Tara and Anya, insisting that they be in the picture also, so Spike put his arms around both girls and pulled them in close while Buffy posed in front of him.  She leaned back against him, grateful for the opportunity for physical contact.  The picture was followed by a flurry of different combinations of people and poses – Dawn and Spike, Dawn and Tara, Spike and Tara, Buffy and Dawn, and, finally, Spike took the camera and snapped a picture of all four girls laughing and huddled together in front of the stove.

 

                  There was one picture left when the vampire suggested that Anya might want to have one of her and “the whelp”.  The ex-demon gave him a grateful look and went to get her boyfriend.  Dragging Xander back into the kitchen, she insisted he pose with her while Dawn took a picture of them.  Oblivious to the dark looks he was sending their way Spike and Buffy had moved to stand together near the refrigerator, their shoulders touching as they waited for the photograph to be completed.

 

                  As soon as Dawn had snapped the picture, the still-fuming Xander went back into the living room, turning the TV up as loud as he could so as not hear the laughter and excitement from the kitchen.  When it became obvious that everyone was going to be expected to help, Anya quickly left the kitchen, mumbling that she was a “guest and shouldn’t be expected to help serve the meal.”

 

               She threw herself down on the couch next to Xander, immediately turning the volume down to a tolerable level and demanding, “What is wrong with you?”

 

              “There is a soulless, bloodsucking demon in that room carving a turkey.  What do you think is wrong with me?”

 

              “You’re narrow-minded and jealous?”  Anya made no attempt to hide her own growing anger.  “In case you haven’t noticed, Buffy is not your girl friend.  And when she was dead, Spike spent more time here than you did.  He took care of Dawn, kept you alive on patrol, and kept his mourning for Buffy thankfully out of sight.  Well, after those first unmanly tears when she landed at the foot of Glory’s tower, anyway,” she finished with a small frown. “He has every right to be here if they want him to.”

 

               They were saved from having a full-blown fight by Tara’s quiet request that they come to the table.  Xander placed himself as far away from Spike as he could, unclear whether to be grateful that the vampire was at one end of the table and Buffy at the other or to be annoyed at the implied domesticity of their positions.  He was still trying to make up his mind while he filled his plate with the delicious food that Tara had helped make happen in the normally chaotic Summers kitchen, but lost the thread of his anger as he began to eat.

 

              Pointedly ignoring Spike’s presence at the end of the table, he offered a toast to, “Happy holidays spent with good friends and family,” glaring angrily when everyone but him included the vampire before drinking. 

 

               Beside him, from her spot at the end of the table, Buffy hissed, “I think if you tried, you might be able to be a little bit more obnoxious, Xander.  Don’t you have any Christmas spirit?”

 

             Before he could answer, the front door flew open and to everyone’s surprise, Willow burst into the room babbling about business emergencies and shortened vacations.  She slid to a halt, smiling shyly when she saw Tara sitting beside Dawn.  Her eyes went from Tara and Dawn to Buffy then Xander and Anya, widening when she recognized the man at the head of the table.

 

            “Willow!”  Xander rose to his feet, happy to have some support.  “Look at this!”  He waved his hand at Spike, whose countenance was darkening as he saw Buffy begin to look distressed.

 

            Willow gave Buffy a hard stare, then looked back at the vampire who was now glaring at her best male friend.

 

             “What’s going on, Buffy?” the Slayer’s housemate asked with deceptive calm.  “When I left a few days ago, Spike wasn’t part of this household.”

 

            “Well, maybe he should have been,” Dawn muttered, earning a nudge from Tara.

 

            “My point exactly!” Xander, feeling he now had reinforcements, began to unleash the venom and anger he’d been keeping under control while he was so badly outnumbered.  As he went through a litany of reasons why Spike should not be there, beginning with his obsession with Buffy and his having given her a Christmas present which she “had no better sense than to encourage him by wearing”, Buffy’s face was visibly crumpling.

 

            Willow walked around the table and patted Buffy on the shoulder saying encouragingly, “I’m back now, Buffy.  We’ll find a way to get rid of him.”  She stood up and looked at Spike with the air of someone who was now in charge.

 

             “I don’t want to get rid of him, Will.”  Buffy’s quiet response caught everyone by surprise, including Spike, who had already stood up, preparing to leave before his presence ruined what had been a nice Christmas dinner.

 

             Immediately, Willow and Xander began to berate her, insisting that he must have put a spell on her, that she wasn’t herself, hadn’t been since she got back, and needed to let them help her make these decisions.  While Tara tried to prevent an angry Dawn from throwing mashed potatoes at Willow’s face, and Spike edged along the wall, thanking Buffy for asking him to dinner, she remained quietly in her seat until her friends ran out of breath.

 

              When they stopped for air, she stood up and walked over to Spike, looking up into his face for a second.

 

               “It’s alright, pet,” he said quietly.  “You’ve got all your mates here and I don’t want to spoil the rest of the night.  I’ll see you later, yeah?”

 

               “No,” she said clearly.  “You’ll see me now AND later.  I’m tired of this!”

 

               Buffy turned around and glared at her friends, who immediately began protesting that they were only doing it because they loved her.

 

                 “I know how you feel, Buff—”  She cut Xander off with a wave of her hand.

 

                 “I don’t think you do, Xander.  And I know you don’t know how I feel,” she growled, glaring at Willow.

 

               “I find one thing that helps me forget... for a while... how miserable I am here and you – the people responsible for my pain – want to take it away from me.  You can’t begin to imagine how I feel – or how much being around Spike helps me deal with it. He is the only one in my life who isn’t trying to run it for me.  Who just loves me the way I am.  I need him.  He makes me happy.  And you want me to make him go away because you don’t like him here?   Xander?  Willow?  You want to tell me again how much you love me? How you’re trying to help me?  Cause, the helping? The love?  Really not seeing it here.  Not from either of you.”

 

                She glared around the table, breathing hard, her face flushed as she challenged them to argue with her.  A sideways scowl halted Dawn’s attempt to provide applause for the speech and the teenager put her hands in her lap and waited for the outcome.

 

                “Buffy – we just don’t think you’re thinking clearly.  We’re just trying to help yo—"

 

                “And, again, I’d like to point out that the only thing keeping me sane, the only thing – besides Dawn – anchoring me to this world that demands so much of me is that man there.”  Buffy pointed to the completely overwhelmed vampire standing behind her.

 

                 “He’s not a man, he’s a demon, Buffy.” Xander was almost spitting in his haste to get his words out.  “That right there shows that you’re not thinking right.  You need us to tell you wh—”

 

                “I don’t need you to tell me anything, Xander. Except, maybe, Merry Christmas. And if you can’t include Spike in that, then the only thing this family needs to hear from you is ‘good-night’.”

 

                  She held her chin up defiantly and waited for her two oldest friends to decide what was more important to them, that she allow them to run her life, or that she be happy to have them in it.

 

                  Willow looked around the room quickly and saw no support for her position from anyone except Xander.  Dawn was clearly on Spike’s side, as everyone knew she would be after spending the previous summer with the chipped vampire as her constant companion and protector.  Tara was staring at her plate sadly – her distress evident in every line of her body – and Willow flinched, remembering how she’d tried to control her former girlfriend’s life with a forgetting spell. Anya was glaring at Xander in a way that promised serious retribution when they got home, although at the moment he was still too wrapped in righteous indignation to notice.

 

                  The vampire in question was waiting with uncharacteristic patience; he was standing quietly behind Buffy ready to do whatever she asked, and Willow studied him for a second with new eyes.  Unlike Xander, she didn’t doubt his love for Buffy.  If nothing else, his protecting and caring for Dawn when Buffy was dead and there was no reason for him to keep his promise to her, showed the depth of his emotion.  Their eyes locked briefly, hers challenging, his almost pleading. With a guilt start she realized that he was asking her not to hurt Buffy any more than she already had.

 

                    She turned to her best female friend and saw, beneath the clear anger and determination, the pain waiting to emerge at the expected rejection for which Buffy was bracing herself. 

 

                   She looked back at the man who’d been her best friend since kindergarten and suddenly understood that he had never outgrown his teen-aged crush on Buffy. Through two girlfriends, multiple dates with demons, and a flirtation with her, he had never given up the idea that someday Buffy would see him as more than a good friend.  The idea that she could prefer a vampire, one of the same beings that had killed his friend Jesse, was more than he could handle.  His reaction had nothing to do with Spike’s being bad for Buffy and everything to do his own frustrated longings.

 

                   She shook her head slowly, her red hair glinting in the light from the candles on the table. 

 

             I’ve been a fool.  When did I go from sweet little Willow who wants everyone to be happy to arrogant Willow who thinks she should decide for them what that would be?

 

                “I’m sorry, Buffy.  I don’t know what we were thinking.  Of course, it’s your house and your life.  And if you want Spike in it – if he makes you happy – then I’m happy.  For both of you,” she added with a tentative smile at the astonished vampire.

 

               “’preciate that, Red,” he said with nod.

 

                Every eye in the room swiveled to the equally amazed brunette man standing near the doorway.

 

                 “Xander?” Buffy’s voice was soft and pleading, as was the expression on Willow’s face.  Spike's eyes were calm and unconcerned.  His only interest was in Buffy’s happiness, and for that reason he hoped the man would at least pretend to accept the no-longer-secret relationship.

 

                  Smothering the urge to run to the weapon’s chest for a stake or a sword, Xander swallowed the refusal that was ready to spring from mouth and admitted to himself that he had, at least temporarily, lost this particular fight.

 

                   Avoiding eye contact with either Buffy or Spike, he sat down again, saying coldly, “I think someone mentioned pie?  I’ll have whipped cream on mine, please.”

 

                  Spike touched Buffy’s back gently and whispered, “That’s the best we’re going to get, pet. Let it go.  It’s Christmas.”

 

                   Without looking at him, she nodded briefly and let out the tense breath she’d been holding.  Moving towards the kitchen she said quietly, “Spike, why don’t you come and help me with the pie?  Dawnie, Tara, would you two please clear the table?”

 

                   As soon as Buffy was in the kitchen, her shoulders slumped and she leaned into the counter, holding it tightly with both hands.  Spike watched uncertainly as she took several deep breaths, then turned to face him saying with false perkiness, “Well, that went well, don’t you think?”

 

                   “It went better than it could have,” he replied honestly.  “Red came through like a champ.”

 

                    “Yeah, she did, didn’t she?”  Buffy gave a wry smile. “I guess she figures she owes me.” 

 

                    “She does owe you, love.”  He stepped closer and risked running a hand lightly down one arm.  “They all owe you.”

 

                    “They owe you, too,” Buffy said fiercely. “Dawn told me – hell, they’ve all told me about how you helped them while I was… gone.  I can’t believe they forgot that so fast once I was back.  They just treat you like… like hired muscle.”  Her face turned white, remembering her sister’s words earlier in the day. Her eyes flew up to his, wide with apology.

 

                 “And so have I.  Even if we weren’t… whatever we are….” She blushed, not sure what to call their relationship now that’d she’d acknowledged they had one.  “Even if we weren’t together,” she finished firmly, trying not to notice the joy spreading across the vampire’s face, “you would still have earned the right to be here with everyone else.  It’s time they – we – all realized that.”

 

                  Whatever further admissions might have been made were cut off by the arrival of, not Dawn and Tara, but Willow and Tara carried armloads of dirty dishes from the dining room.  Spike smirked and winked at the blushing blonde witch as she tried to pretend that there was nothing unusual about her willingness to be around her former girlfriend.  Dawn followed closely behind them, carrying the remaining dishes and piling them in the sink.

 

                    Xander’s face was still thunderous when they all came back out, carrying plates of pumpkin pie liberally covered in whipped cream. He mumbled his thanks when Willow set the plate with the largest piece down in front of him and immediately began to eat without waiting for or looking at anyone.

 

                   Willow hesitated briefly, holding her own plate, looking from the side of the table where Xander and Anya ate in silence to the other where Dawn and Tara were already moving their chairs closer together to make room for her.  Casting a sad look at her friend first, she gratefully sat down next to Tara and tried not to look as thrilled as she felt about being there.

 

               Dessert was over with quickly; Dawn being the only one at the table willing to ignore the various tensions in the room and chatter as she ate.  Buffy quickly picked up the dishes and carried them into the kitchen, insisting that she and Dawn would clean up while their “company” went back to the living room and made themselves comfortable.

 

              Spike gave Dawn a jerk of his head to indicate she was to join the witches and Xander and Anya in the living room, then followed Buffy into the kitchen. 

 

               “Why don’t you join your mates, pet, and I’ll get this started,” he said quietly, beginning to scrape plates.

 

                “You’re going to do the dishes?”  The disbelief on her face was so comical that he was wishing the camera still had pictures left, but instead of laughing, he growled, “If you tell anyone about this, I will make you my third dead Slayer.”

 

               “No you won’t,” she laughed confidently. “But you should be very grateful the camera is full.”

 

               He growled again, turning her and giving a light shove toward the living room.  “Go,” he muttered.  “Go sing carols or talk about puppies or whatever it is you lot do after stuffing yourselves.  I’ll keep my under-appreciated self out here for awhile and give the whelp some time to cool off.”

 

               “Okaaaaay. Who are you and what have you done with Spike?  He’s about your height, blond hair, considers annoying Xander one of life’s great entertainments….”

 

              “You’re pushing it, missy.”

 

              “Not yet, I’m not,” she replied with a sassy wink as she left the kitchen.  “But maybe later.”

 

                “There’s no maybe about it, Slayer!” he called after her as she walked away laughing softly. 

 

                 Smiling so much he was afraid his face would break, Spike turned back to the sink full of dishes and began filling the sink with hot water and detergent.  Even with his arms in dishwater up to his elbows, he had no doubt this was turning into the best Christmas of his life.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

 FOR MEGAN  - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

Part IV

 

            By the time Spike wandered back into the living room, the atmosphere was much more relaxed; so much so that he felt comfortable walking over to Buffy’s chair and sitting at her feet.  It was clear from the expression on Xander’s face that, while his own feelings had obviously not changed, he had lost any ability to get anyone to agree with him and he did not say anything when Buffy rested her hand on Spike’s head briefly as she thanked him for doing the dishes.

 

          As the guests began stirring restlessly and talking about getting home, the vampire stood up and walked over to the coat he had carried in from the kitchen.  He took out his cigarettes and said casually,   “I’m just going to slip out the back for a fag, so I’ll say ‘good-night’ now. I want to thank you for allowing me to share your holiday.” He surprised them all by adding sincerely,  “I appreciate it.”

 

           Xander stood up and glared a challenge at the vampire. “We’re all leaving now, Spike.  You might want to think about smoking that cigarette while you walk back to your crypt.”  There was no mistaking his intent when he stared meaningfully at the front door. 

 

           Spike took a quick look at Buffy to see if she wanted him to leave and come back later.  He assumed she would want to stay home with her sister another night, rather than come to his crypt, but to his surprise and disappointment, she stood up also and handed him his coat.  He took it from her in silence, trying not to see the flash of triumph in the brown eyes watching them so closely as Buffy walked with him to the front hallway.

 

             Her eyes were twinkling with mischief as they stopped under the mistletoe ball.

 

              “Oh look, Spike,” she said in her blondest voice.  “We’re standing under that ball of mistletoe we put up last night. That means you have to kiss me.”

 

              Spike’s answer was lost as Anya glared at the decoration and huffed, “I don’t know how that Druid plant became something to kiss under.  Do you people have any idea what they used to use it for?”

 

             “Uh, no, and I’m pretty sure we don’t want to, Anya.” Xander tried to head off a story that might ruin mistletoe forever for the whole group.

 

             “But, it’s interesting.  And people should know what they’re—"

 

             “And on that note, I think we’ll say ‘good-night’,” he said quickly, pulling Anya out the door and on to the porch.

 

            In spite of the flurry of Merry Christmases that followed them, there were none of the usual hugs as Xander pulled the still-protesting ex-demon towards the car.  In his haste to get his girl friend out of there before she could remind everyone that she was, in fact, an ex-vengeance demon and had probably killed many times over the number of people Spike had in his pre-chipped days, he forgot that he was leaving the vampire in the house.

 

           At the last second, Tara ran after him to ask for a ride back to her apartment, leaving Willow to gaze wistfully after her.  Vampire, slayer and witch stood with the thousands-of-years-old-Key and waved as the car pulled out of the driveway and drove off into the night.

 

           Everyone except Spike stepped back into the house, leaving the vampire standing on the porch by himself.  Buffy turned as she realized he wasn’t behind her and looked at him curiously.

 

                “Are you going to have your cigarette out here instead of on the back porch?” she asked with a slight frown.

 

                “I thought I was leaving,” he answered calmly, gesturing to his coat.

 

                 “Oh.”  The disappointment was clear on her face.  “Well, if you want to.…”

 

                “You handed me the coat, love.  I’m just trying to follow the plan.”

 

               “I was just trying to bug Xander,” she admitted.  “I thought we’d kiss under the mistletoe and when he made a big deal of it I could say I didn’t trust him not to stake you, so you had to stay here.  Anya kind of spoiled my plan,” she pouted.

 

               “We can still kiss under the mistletoe,” he said softly, reentering the house and closing the door behind him.  “Can stand here and kiss the whole bloody night if that’s what you want.”

 

                “I kinda had other plans for the rest of the night,” she murmured, lifting her face to his. “Much better plans….”

 

                Dawn’s “Get a room!” reminded them that they were not alone with the mistletoe and they broke apart reluctantly, turning to face her and an embarrassed Willow.

 

                “I think we will,” Buffy said, blushing.  She looked at her sister’s happy face and her friend’s concerned one and added, “I was planning to go home with Spike tonight anyway.  I’d much rather not have to sneak out.”

 

                 “Buffy, I understand that you and Spike are closer than I realized, but are you sure you’re ready for_"

 

                   Buffy looked her friend in the eye and said quietly, “I’ve been sleeping with Spike for a couple of months, Willow.  I’m not jumping into anything.  I’m just bringing it out in the open.”

 

                  “So when you said earlier that Spike makes you happy, you meant he really makes you….” Willow couldn’t finish her sentence when she caught the vampire’s smirk at her embarrassment.  With a red face, she quickly amended for Dawn’s benefit, “You meant you want to spend as much time with him as possible and that’s why you are going home with him.”

 

                 Dawn rolled her eyes and started up to her room.  Her voice carried down the stairs as she disappeared from view,  “I’m not twelve, you know! I know what a ‘happy’ is!”

 

               “You’d bloody well better not!” 

 

               Spike’s roar startled both Buffy and Willow, not to mention sending Dawn scurrying into her bedroom in a very undignified fashion.  When Buffy had recovered she asked him with a smile, “When are you going to admit that Dawn is old enough to be thinking about boys and sex?”

 

                “When she’s thirty.  Maybe.”  He was clearly not amused at the way Willow and Buffy were laughing at him.

 

                “She’s not a whole lot younger than I was when you first came to town.  And I was already dating Angel.”

 

                 “And look how well that worked out,” he growled, unhappy about the reminder of his grandsire’s claim on her affections.

 

              “I think it worked out pretty well in some ways,” she whispered, sliding her arms around his waist. “It gave us a reason to stop trying to kill each other and form that truce.”

 

               “I guess it did at that,” he agreed, pulling her in even closer and dipping his head down to nibble on her lower lip.  Neither one actually noticed when Willow said a quick “good-night” and ran up the stairs.

 

               “So, you’re coming home with me tonight?” he said hopefully.  “Is that what you said?”

 

                “That, or you could stay here.  With me, in my room, in my bed,” she murmured, slipping her tongue into his mouth.

 

               “And the advantage of that would be…?”

 

               “It’s not very far away.  We could be in bed in a few minutes instead of walking all the way to your crypt.”

 

                “Definitely has a lot to recommend it, then,” he agreed as he slid his hands under her sweater to stroke the warm skin on her back.  Her own hands were busy unbuttoning his shirt and tugging it out of his pants so that she could tickle his flat stomach.

 

                “On the other hand,” he said, pulling away from her mouth with groan, “there are no little sisters or friends a thin wall away when we’re in my bedroom.  Nobody to hear us but the dead.”

 

                “Also a good point,” she said with sigh.  “Help me close up the house, then, and I’ll race you there.”

 

                 They reluctantly separated and went in different directions, turning off lights and locking doors and windows.  When things were closed up to Buffy’s satisfaction, she grabbed a coat and followed Spike out the front door.  Rather than the race that she had joked about, they strolled through the quiet streets, their hands clasped together and swinging loosely between them.

 

                 They reached Restfield Cemetery without encountering another being – alive or undead.  Unlike Buffy’s usual entrance to his home, this time Spike opened the door and held it for her as she went in, ducking under his arm with a soft smile.  He jumped down to the lower level and turned around, holding up his arms to her.

 

                “Come to me, love,” he breathed reverently. “I won’t let you fall.”

 

                 “I know you won’t,” she whispered back as she stepped fearlessly off the top rung of the ladder and dropped into his waiting arms.  “I know you won’t.’

 

                 She could feel the vampire trembling as he held her to his chest, his nose buried in her hair, his mouth moving across her neck with soft kisses. 

 

                   “Hey,” she said softly, trying to lighten the mood.  “Don’t you want to unwrap your present?”

 

                  “I thought you’d never ask,” he growled, responding immediately to her playful tone. 

 

                  His hands went to the hem of her sweater and he started to pull it up slowly.

 

                 “Be careful with my good clothes, okay?” she said anxiously, remembering how often he became impatient and ripped things off of her.  If she was honest, she would admit that she had inflicted her own damage on his wardrobe as well, but she had no intention of ruining his nice shirt or good pants. She was gratified to find that the thinner dress pants gave her a much better feel for his growing erection as it pressed into her stomach and she couldn’t resist giving it a little squeeze.

 

                   “Don’t worry, pet,” he answered with a small gasp.  “Don’t plan to rush anything tonight.  I want to make love to you for the rest of the night and I’m not going to spoil it by ripping your fancy clothes and getting you brassed off at me.”

 

                   He slowly pulled the sweater over her head, pausing to kiss her stomach and breasts as they came into view.  When it was off, he carefully folded it and put it on the dresser before turning his attention back to the girl waiting for him.  Before he could remove any more of her clothing, she began to unbutton the shirt that she’d started on before leaving her house. It was quickly done and she slid it off his arms, running her hands over his biceps as she did so.

 

               He made quick work of her lacy bra, unfastening it and tossing it aside with his usual abandon.  He took the time to kiss each small breast, pulling the nipples into his mouth and smiling at the way she arched into him, small whimpers of appreciation coming from her throat.

 

              When her hands reached for his belt and she began to pull it off, he searched for and found the fastening on her skirt, undoing the button and pulling the zipper down.  The two zippers made matching sounds as Buffy’s hand tugged on his pants at the same time, and they shared a small laugh at the synchronicity.

 

              Spike’s pants dropped to the floor and he toed off his shoes before stepping out of them.  As always, he was unencumbered by underwear and his desire for her was plain to see.  Buffy stepped out of the skirt puddled at her feet, clad only in a scrap of red lace that matched her already discarded bra.

 

               “Beautiful,” the vampire breathed, taking her hand and leading her to the bed.  He pulled her down on top of him, his hands stroking the silky skin of her back while he buried his nose in her neck and continued to praise her beauty and its effect on him.

 

             He hooked his thumbs in her lacy panties and pulled them down as far as he could without removing his mouth from neck, allowing her to squirm on top of him until she could push them the rest of the way down.

 

             “Knew there was a good reason I usually rip those things off,” he growled impatiently.

 

             Buffy giggled and pulled away from him to sit on his thighs. When he reached for her she shook her head, saying,  “We have all night now.  You don’t need to take your impatience out on my underwear tonight.”

 

            “Says the bossy bint who usually bangs her way in here pulling off her clothes before she gets to the bed.”

 

            “Are you complaining?” she asked with a mock pout.  “ Cause if you are, I’m sure I could find somewhere else to take my clothes off, somewhere it will be appreciated.…”

 

             His eyes flashed amber at her for just a second as he let out a deep growl. “Over my dusty remains.”

 

              “Don’t want your remains dusty.  I like them just the way the are,” she murmured, dropping her head and running her tongue up the side of his cock.  “All undusty and smooth and tasty.”  She ran her tongue around the head, dipping it into the little slit exposed when she pushed the foreskin away.

 

                Spike had stopped trying to talk and was making inarticulate sounds as she took him in her mouth and began to suck in a steady rhythm.  She rolled his balls around in one hand, feeling them begin to tighten and prepared herself for the explosion in her mouth.  Instead, Spike grabbed her head, stilling it and delaying the release that was so close.  He tugged on her head until she reluctantly raised it, letting him go with a soft slurping sound.

 

                 “What’s wrong?” she asked anxiously.  “Wasn’t I doing it right?”

 

                 He bit his lip, still struggling to control himself before answering hoarsely, “I want to be in you the first time tonight.  Need to be holding you.”

 

                “But I wanted to give you a Christmas present,” she said with a small pout.

 

                “You’ve already made my Christmas, sweetheart.”  His eyes were full of the adoration she usually didn’t allow herself to see or acknowledge and she colored lightly at the look he was giving her.

 

               “ ‘K, then,” she whispered, moving forward to lie on top of him.  “What do you want me to do?”

 

                 “Just let me love you, Buffy. That’s all I want. All I’ve ever wanted.”

 

                  He rolled them over, his hips dropping between her open thighs, his cock nudging at her entrance.  At her whispered, “That’s what I want too,” he slid into her with a groan, his lips seeking hers as if he was seeking to connect as many intimate body parts as possible.

 

                    Their mouths and hips moved in unison, giving and taking pleasure in a way they never had before.  For all the episodes of violent and inventive sex they’d indulged in over the previous few months, neither of them had ever opened up to the other the way they were this night.  Spike had always feared rejection if he tried to make their coupling about feelings rather than sensation, and Buffy refused to admit to herself that she wanted more from him than just the physical release he provided so well.

 

                    As they built toward a mutually fulfilling conclusion to their first real love-making, Buffy could see Spike’s eyes changing and saw the struggle he was making to remain in his human face.

 

                     “It’s all right,” she gasped with sudden understanding as she felt herself losing control.  “Do it.  Do it now.”

 

                  She felt him shudder just before his fangs slipped easily through the delicate skin of her throat and he took the first long, hard pull of her blood.  With a muffled scream, she felt herself fall into a spiral of continuous rapture; each mind-blowing orgasm succeeded by another with every deep pull the vampire took.  Her body continued to quiver and quake long past the point where she was aware of what was happening to her.  For the first time in her short life she had given herself completely to another person, to a lover, to a man who was both more and less than human.  She felt herself lost and found all at the same time.

 

              Spike was closed off from everything except the woman beneath him – the taste of her blood, the power inherent in it, as well as the feel of her shaking and clenching around him was too much for his demon and the man could only whisper silently his undying devotion.  Only Buffy’s gentle pushing against his chest and her sharp, “Spike!” brought him back to himself long enough for him to release his grip on her neck.  He quickly licked the wounds closed and drew back to gaze apologetically into her sated eyes.

 

              “Oh, bloody hell, love.  Did I hurt you?  I didn’t mean to… just love you so bloody much—“

 

              “I’m fine,” she hastened to assure him.  “It’s just that you went away and I wanted you to come back to me.”  In a rare show of affection, she caressed his face with one hand.

 

                He leaned into her hand, turning his head to kiss her palm as he said earnestly, “I will always come back to you, Buffy.  I promise you.  I will always come back no matter where I am.”

 

              “Promise?”

 

              “I promise, Buffy.”

 

               “All right. If you promise,” she murmured, as he rolled them over so as not to be crushing her with his weight.  “Merry Christmas, Spike.”

 

              He pulled the blankets up over their bodies and held her tightly as she curled trustingly into his side. “I wish I’d gotten you a present,” she mumbled just before her even breathing told him she had drifted off to sleep.

 

              The vampire who’d had his every wish fulfilled within the space of twenty-four hours shook with silent chuckles at the idea that she had not given him anything for Christmas.  “Merry Christmas, Buffy,” he whispered into her hair just before he joined her for a post-coital nap. “Merry Christmas, my love.”

 

The End

 

 

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