full 3/4 1/2   skin light dark       
Is It Christmas Yet? by slaymesoftly
Parts 1 and 2
Part One
"So, you and the Buffster?  When did that happen?"
"It hasn't happened. We told you—she's got too much else on her mind."
“Well, she’s obviously thinking about it,” Xander said, just a trace of jealousy and sadness in his voice. “I don’t know what it is with her and the undead…”
“Why? Because human men have always done so well by her?”  Spike stared into Xander’s face until the boy blinked and nodded.
“Okay. So maybe she’s had a few losers… but I thought Riley….”
“He couldn’t handle what she is. Doubt many men could. Or would. Girl needs someone to love her for what she is, not in spite of it.”
“And that would be you?” Xander’s disbelief was plain on his face.
Spike shrugged. “Could be. It’s up to her.”
“If you hurt her—”
“Understood.” Spike stood up and went to move away from Xander’s threatening expression. He stopped, his back to Xander. “I’m not him, you know. Nothin’ like that bloody wanker.”
“So you say.”
“So I say.” Spike walked away to wait for Buffy to arrive.
Many weeks later, as the store filled up with early Christmas shoppers, Xander moved to the back to join Spike at the table. They had long since settled into a relationship that included exchanging insults and threats while becoming each other’s most frequent male companion.
“Shop is doing good business, innit?”
“Seems to be. Turns out Anya is a really good businesswoman.  I think Giles lets her do whatever she wants as long as the shop keeps bringing in money.”
“Good decision on his part. I don’t think they cover shopkeeping in watcher school.”
Spike answered absently, his attention clearly on Buffy who had just entered the store and was wending her way through the customers. She’d almost made it when Anya noticed her and called her over.
“Buffy! Good. I’m glad you’re here. Giles and I can’t leave the sales floor and those two—” she gestured at Xander and Spike who tried to appear equally interested in the tabletop—“are worthless. Here‘s a list – run downstairs and get these items and restock the shelves.  No merchandise means no money coming in!”  As she spoke, Anya was ringing up another sale with one hand and giving Buffy the list with the other.
Buffy sighed, but nodded and walked to the stairs, pausing to smack Spike and Xander on the head as she passed the table.
“Let’s go, worthless guys. You can carry things up for me.” 
With matching groans, they followed her down the stairs to the dimly-lit stockroom. 
As Buffy loaded Spike up with silk scarves, candles and scented sachets, Xander snickered at him, bringing on a serious snarl:  “If you tell anyone about this, I will rip your lungs out. Chip or no chip.”
“Yeah, yeah. Like I want the guys I work with to see me draped in gaudy jewelry!” Xander held his arms out so that Buffy could put necklaces and bracelets on them.
“Quit complaining. Just take this stuff up and come back down for another load. If you don’t know where it goes, put it on the table and I’ll take care of it when I come up.” Buffy shooed them to the stairs and began piling crystals and small geodes into a basket.
When Spike and Xander reached the top of the stairs, they could see the mob of customers had mostly been taken are of, and the shop was much less crowded.
“Spike, put those candles on the shelves and put the sachets near the candles with the same scent. Give the scarves to Xander for display with the jewelry. Xander, please display them all in a pleasing fashion on the racks.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike growled, even as he dumped his load of candles and tried to put them into some sort of order. “Can’t you do something with her?”
“Hey, I at least got a ‘please’. I consider that progress.”
As the last customer left the store, Spike hung a scarf around Xander’s neck and began tucking sachets into his shirt and pants pockets, snorting a laugh when his face wrinkled up in disgust. In retaliation, Xander draped several beaded necklaces over Spike’s neck, laughing at the snarls coming from the bedecked vampire.
“That’s it!” Spike grabbed a sparkly tiara and placed it on Xander’s head.
“Oh, it’s on, fangface!”  Xander said, adding a string of jingle bells and a Santa hat to Spike’s head.
“Oh. My. God.”  Buffy’s arrival with her basket full of crystals and other charms stopped them before they could destroy any more displays.
“What the hell?” The jingling of the bell over the door brought all eyes to where Riley was standing, staring with an open mouth at Spike and Xander.
“This doesn’t look like what it is... I mean, this isn’t what it looks like... I mean...” Xander stuttered as he began removing sachets from his pockets, forgetting for the moment the tiara on his head.
“I looks like you’re playing dress-up with a vampire,” Riley said, refusing to look at Spike. “Could explain a lot, I guess...”
“Buffy! Do something with them. I’ll get mine if you get yours.”  Paying no attention to Riley’s dark expression or Buffy’s rolled eyes, Anya snatched the tiara from Xander’s hair and pushed him away from the display shelves. She began organizing the items that had been dropped in heaps on the counter, scolding both men as she did.
Before Buffy could decide how to deal with the “if you get yours” that had Spike smothering a smile and Riley looking like he was going to explode, Spike’s demeanor changed and he narrowed his eyes at Buffy’s ex boyfriend.
As he carefully removed the jewelry from his neck, and pulled the Santa hat off, his expression went from embarrassment to suspicion, to a look of pure satisfaction, and his mouth widened in a toothy grin.
“Welcome to the club, Captain America.  Let me be the first to teach you how important it is to respect your elders...” He rolled his shoulders and began prowling toward the front of the store.
Only Anya immediately grasped what was going on.
“Not here, Spike!” she shrieked. “Beat him up outside!”
“I’ll take care of you later, Spike,” Riley sniffed dismissively. “I’m here for Buffy.”
As he spoke, Riley’s features were shifting and it was soon obvious to everyone what Spike and Anya had realized so quickly.  Buffy gave an unhappy sigh before moving up beside Spike to stare coldly at the vampire wearing Riley’s face.
“Get out, Riley,” she said, a stake appearing in her hand as if by magic. “We don’t want to wreck Giles and Anya’s store.”
“Maybe I do want to wreck it,” he snarled, pushing over a display rack and kicking the debris toward them.
“High and low?” Spike’s quick comment to Buffy and her nod meant nothing to anyone but them, so her dive for Riley’s knees while Spike leaped on his head took everyone by surprise.  Riley crashed to the floor, snarling and snapping at Spike and trying to kick Buffy.  Anya sprinted to the door and held it open for them. They grabbed his legs and shoulders and threw him out onto the sidewalk, following quickly, but not fast enough to prevent him from regaining his feet.
“This isn’t over,” he snarled, dodging behind confused and frightened pedestrians. “I’ll be back for you, Buffy.  We’ll be together, one way or another.”
Rather than run after Riley, Buffy went back to the shop office and picked up the phone.
“What are you doing? Aren’t you going to get him?”
Buffy ignored Anya’s question as her mother answered the phone. “Mom? I just want to remind you and Dawn not to let Riley in the house.  And until I tell you it’s okay, don’t go anywhere at night.”  She paused, then sighed. “Yes, he did do it. But Spike and I will take care of it as soon as we can. I just wanted to be sure you two knew in case he shows up there.  Yes, Mom, it is too bad. Okay. I love you too.”
Buffy hung up and turned to face Anya.
“I’ll get him. Don’t worry. Giles? Do you think you can put up something to keep him out of here? I know it’s a public place, but a demon-specific spell of some kind? “
“I’m already working on it,” Giles said from where he was looking through the books on a high shelf.  “If Willow and Tara are coming, the three of us should be able to come up with something specific fairly easily.”
“I changed my mind,” Anya said. “You shouldn’t go chasing after him. You need to stay here to protect us.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You’ve got protection. Holy water squirt guns behind the counter, crosses within easy reach, and an experienced watcher. You’ll be fine. I doubt he’ll be back tonight.”  She looked at Spike who was still standing by the closed door, clearly anxious to leave.
“We should warn his friends first.  They won’t be expecting it. He could kill or turn a lot of people if we don’t get there before he does.”
He nodded. “Ready when you are, Slayer.”
As they walked through downtown, dodging shoppers and admiring the holiday lights on the buildings, Buffy sighed deeply.  Spike put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulders.
“You know this is not your fault, right? Nothing you’ve ever said or done sent that wanker to get himself turned. You did everything you could to talk him out of it.”
She shrugged his arm off. “I’m not stupid, Spike.  I didn’t intend to make him think he wasn’t enough for me, or wasn’t what I really wanted, but obviously I did. I’m not saying I could have helped it – I am what I am – but maybe I shouldn’t have tried to be so.... I don’t know. So something. I must have done something wrong!”
“You did nothing but be your brilliant, deadly self.  His ego did for him. Couldn’t believe you didn’t want him, so went looking for what he thought he needed.“
“I told him he wouldn’t want me any more if he got turned,” she muttered.
“Seems like he still does, pet.  Just not as particular about whether you’re breathin’ or not.”
“Not helping, Spike.”
“Sorry, love. But that’s how I read it. He thinks he can just walk up and take you. Doesn’t really understand what you are. Or that you have help....” He shook his head.  “The wanker seems to have forgotten the chip doesn’t work on demons.  I’m not the pushover I was when he was human.”
“Even if he forgot, he should have noticed that you were able to attack him when you jumped on his head. He’s probably just counting on being bigger than you are. ”
Spike shrugged. “Sunnydale’s full of the dust of new vamps that thought being bigger than me was all they needed.”
Buffy nodded and gave him a sad smile. “Yeah. Think maybe he’s forgotten how many of them it took to bring you in last year  – and that you got yourself out of there, even with a chip in your head.”
“You almost sound like you’re proud of me, Slayer.” He peered at her to see if she would call him on it, but she smiled again. 
“I’m not saying I want to see the old, unchipped Spike back, but I know better than anybody how good a fighter you are, and Riley wouldn’t have a chance.” She frowned. “Which doesn’t mean I want you getting careless and all cocky if — when you have to fight him. He is a lot bigger than you, and now he’s got all those vamp superpowers too....”
“Are you asking me to do the honors? I’m happy to do it for you if you don’t want to. Not like I don’t owe the big git a kick or two.”
She sighed. “I can do it. I already told him that if I could send Angel to hell when I was seventeen, he wouldn’t be a problem...  I mean, yeah, I liked him when we first met... but he’s very dustable.”  They paused outside the house the remaining Ex-Initiative soldiers lived in .  “Maybe you should wait here? These guys might over-react to seeing you.”
“I don’t mind waiting, but—” He touched her arm, stopping her before she could enter the building. “—be careful, luv.  We don’t know how long he’s been a vamp. You could be walkin’ into a nest.”
Buffy nodded. “Guess so. Maybe my back-up should to be standing in the doorway?”
“Maybe the one with no heartbeat should go first.  If I can walk in without an invite, we’ll know what we’re facing.”
“There you go, making sense again. I don’t think I know how to handle that.” The grateful glance she cast his way took any possible sting from her words and Spike smiled at her.
“I have my moments,” he said as he moved past her and pulled the door open. He took a tentative step and came up against the invisible barrier. “Can’t get in, love. Guess you go first.  Might want to hurry, I only hear two heartbeats and they’re beatin’ like—”
His words cut off as Buffy shoved past him, her ears having picked up the sounds of a fight.  “Come in, Spike,” she threw over her shoulder, hoping the invitation would be good even though she wasn’t a resident.  It wasn’t, and he remained in the open doorway, his snarls doing nothing to dissolve the magical barrier.
The scene that greeted Buffy as she rounded the corner to the main room made her groan.  Two live soldiers were facing off, stakes and crosses in hand, against Riley and five other fledgling vampires. The strangers were so newly turned they were still wearing the bloody uniforms they’d been killed in.
“Ah, there you are, Buffy! I knew you’d see it my way.  Let me just finish off my squad here and I’ll—“
Buffy stepped in front of the two men who’d obviously been taken by surprise when they got home and found their roommates wearing fangs. Behind them were the bodies of two other soldiers who were just beginning to stir as demons took over the bodies. 
“Graham, I need you to say ‘Come in’ to Spike.”  When he hesitated, she snapped, “Now, please. Let him in!”
With a shudder at the sight of one of his buddies trying to get to his feet, fangs already at the ready, Graham pushed his cross in the new vamp’s face and leaned into the foyer to say, “Come in, Spike.”
Moving almost too fast to be seen, Spike was through the door and into the room. He paused to knock out the two fledges just getting to their feet, snarling at Graham and the other soldier, “You know what to do now. Do it!”
Without waiting to see if they’d obeyed, he stepped up beside Buffy.
“Which ones do you want, Slayer?” he asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet and grinning. “How many can I have?”
“You’re pretty cocky, Spike. For somebody who’s facing trained fighters. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re outnumbered – six of us and only two of you.”
“There are four of us,” Graham said, moving up behind Buffy as the other man flanked Spike.
Riley laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll get to you, old buddy. Just stay out of the way,”
“Actually, that’s probably a good idea, Graham.” Buffy exchanged a look with Spike, then continued, “There are only six of them. Maybe you should sit back and watch the fun.”
“But....” Riley frowned, apparently thinking Buffy hadn’t understood the odds.  “There are six of us. And only two of you.”
Spike’s grin widened.
“ ‘preciate your math skills, Capt’n Obvious, but the day the Slayer and I can’t handle a few dirt-covered fledges by ourselves—Oh, one down already.”  While they’d exchanged words, one of the new vamps had grown impatient and leapt at Buffy, only to dust on the point of the stake she brought up in time for him to impale himself on it.
Riley gestured for the remaining four newly-turned minions to attack, snarling when they hesitated. “Get him!” he said. “He’s just another vamp and there are four of you!”
“All yours,” Buffy said to Spike. “I’ll keep an eye on Riley.”
With a whoop, Spike went into game face and met the tentatively attacking vampires halfway.  Graham and the remaining live soldier retreated to the foyer, watching from what they hoped was a safe distance as Spike showed the newly vamped soldiers the difference between a master vampire who loves to fight and the run-of-the-mill new vampire that had turned them.  While Buffy kept an eye on Riley, Spike punched and kicked and spun and twisted until there was nothing left of the little gang of fledglings but dust and one moaning unfortunate on the floor. Spike bent down and twisted the head off in mid-moan, then stood up and stretched his arms.
“Well, that was a bit of all right,” he said.  “Almost makes up for you keeping the big git for yourself, Slayer.”
Riley stood uncertainly, looking back and forth between them. “You’re going to make her fight me by herself?” he said incredulously. He turned to Buffy. “Why don’t you make him do it?”
“’Cause I let him have those four morons,” she said cheerfully.  “So that means you’re all mine.” She gave him a grin that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Spike.
He stared at her, yellow eyes narrowed. “You can’t beat me by yourself.” He pointed at Spike. “I might have underestimated him, but—” 
“Ya think?” Spike snorted as he leaned against the wall and lit a cigarette. 
“—But I’ve sparred with you, Buffy. Even if you were holding back a little bit, you can’t possibly be any harder to handle than that.” He jerked his chin at Spike, who laughed and blew smoke out.
“Slayer can kick my arse six ways to Sunday,” he said with a grin. “You’ve got no idea how much she was holdin’ back when she was tryin’ to protect your ego.”
Riley turned his gaze back to Buffy, who looked momentarily embarrassed, but shrugged in agreement. “What he said.”
Fading back to his human mein, Riley said, “But you couldn’t stake me, could you? Not after what we had together—” Spike’s snarl made Riley smile. “Yeah, that’s right, Spike. She was mine. And she will be again. One way or another. She’ll make a good vampire, don’t you think?”
“She’d make a bloody brilliant vampire, but it’s never gonna happen, you stupid git.”
“You’d really turn me?”
Spike growled and straightened up from his casual posture as he heard the trace of uncertainty in her voice.  Buffy turned her head to look at him.
“You wouldn’t let that...?”
“You’ve got my word, love. But we both know it’s not gonna—” 
Taking advantage of her distraction, Riley sprang at Buffy, carrying her to the floor with his extra weight.  Unfortunately for him, Buffy fell with her knees already bent, and she straightened her legs to send him flying off to land on his back.  She was on her feet and sitting on his chest before he even realized what had happened.
“You son of a bitch,” she said, punching him in the face. “You’d do that to me? You? You’ve still got dirt under your fingernails!”
“I didn’t have to dig—”
“That was metaphorical,” Buffy sighed, plunging her stake into his heart and sinking to the floor when he dusted.  She sat there for a moment, then stood up and brushed herself off.
“You okay?” Spike reached a hand toward her cheek, then dropped it to his side when he saw the expression on her face.
“I’m fine,” she said, sighing again. “Which is probably a sign that there’s something wrong with me.” She shrugged. “It’s surprisingly easy to stake ex boy-friends when they’re threatening to turn you into a blood-sucking monster.” She felt rather than saw Spike’s flinch and turned an apologetic smile on him.  “Sorry. Present company excepted, I guess.”
He shook his head. “No apology necessary, love. It’s what I am. Live with that every day, don’t I? Just’ve gotten kind of used to thinking you might be forgettin’ it.”  He lifted his hand again and stroked her cheek. “But you prob’ly shouldn’t.”
Buffy leaned into his hand, encouraging him to pull her into a light embrace. She raised her eyes to meet his. “Sometimes I do. Forget about it. But I know shouldn’t.  I know how fast it can go all wrong.”
“I’m not him, Buffy.” He spoke through clenched teeth, his body suddenly tense. “I don’t have a soul to lose, and as long as I’ve got a chance with you, I’ve got all the reason in the world to keep a lid on my demon.”
“You can do that?”
“If I couldn’t, I’d be just as dusty as the first few poor buggers they’d tried the chip on.  I’ve always been able to control my demon, just never had a reason to before.” His soft gaze made it clear what his reason was.
“Oh,” was Buffy’s soft reply.  “But Ang—”
He dropped his arms and turned away with snarl. “If you finish that sentence, you can forget about a Christmas present.”  He walked away, leaving Buffy standing in the midst of a room full of vampire dust. 
After giving the two surviving soldiers an abbreviated explanation of what Riley had done and why, Buffy left them to clean up the area and come up with an explanation for the deaths for which they had no bodies.  As they walked out the door, Spike was still preening about their admiring comments on his fighting prowess.
Buffy watched him strutting down the street, finally laughing and pushing him off balance.
“You can stop showing off now. Your fan club can’t see you anymore.”
“You’re just jealous, Slayer. Nobody told you how afraid of you they were.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well, at least their fanboy behavior improved your disposition.”
“Nothing wrong with my disposition that can’t be improved by never havin’ to hear my poncy grandsire’s name again. Especially coming from your lips.” Without waiting for her to respond, Spike strode toward a lot selling Christmas trees, leaving Buffy to run after him.
“What are we doing here? Are there vamps in there?”
“Promised your mum I’d bring her a tree, so she wouldn’t have to do it herself.”
“I could have brought her a tree! Why didn’t she ask me?”
“’Cause she asked me. Stop pouting and help me pick out a good one.”
“What do you even know about picking out a tree?” she grumbled, following him around the lot. “You’re a vampire!”
“Wasn’t born a vampire, Buffy.”  As he spoke, he was holding up a particularly full spruce tree and turning it this way and that.  “What do you think of this one?”
“It’s pretty,” she admitted, “but it looks expensive.”
“I’ve got it.” When she raised her eyebrows at him, he continued. “Done pretty well for myself at the tables lately. And I picked up a bit of dosh as bodyguard for one of my card-playing buddies who needed an escort home with his winnings.”
“Spike... you can’t buy our Christmas tree....” 
“Can if I want to,” he said, his face settling into a stubborn pout. When she glared back at him, he sighed and shook his head. “Alright, then. Call it a gift for your mum if it makes you uncomfortable, Slayer.”
“I’m not sure knowing my mom would be expecting a present from you is any better than letting you buy our tree... It’d be like you were giving me a present.”
“I am giving you a present. Whether you like it or not, Slayer. It’s that time of the year, just relax and enjoy it.”
“You’re getting me a present? I thought you were just saying that because you were mad at me.”
“Was brassed off at you, but I meant it.”  He shook his head. “Well, maybe I didn’t mean the part about not giving it to you, but...”
“Spike...” Buffy hesitated, not sure she knew what she wanted to say, but apparently Spike did.
Carrying the tree, he walked to the cash register and handed the attendant several bills from his wallet. He shook his head when the man offered to put the tree on the roof of his car. “Just tie it up. I’ll carry it.”
As soon as the tree was wrapped with cord, he put it over his shoulder and jerked his head at Buffy. “Let’s go, pet. Want to get it into water as soon as I can.”
Buffy obediently trailed him out of the tree lot, smiling at the gawking attendant as she passed him.  “He’s very strong,” she said.  “Merry Christmas.”
She trotted until she caught up with Spike, who was striding down the street as though he did it every night, carrying a tree that was taller than he was.
“Don’t what?”
“Don’t say what you think you need to say about any presents I may have for you or anybody in your family.  I don’t want to hear it. It’s Christmas and if I want to buy gifts for the people I... I care about... I’ll do it. Isn’t that what the holiday is all about?”
“So, it’s not just me.”
He shrugged.
He stopped and set the tree down. “No, Slayer. It’s not just you. It’s your mum and your annoying little sister too. So stop worrying that I’m doing something unacceptable for a man who isn’t a proper suitor. All I’m doing is helping out with Christmas for a family I care about that doesn’t have a man around the house.”
“I’m beginning to think I should be jealous of my own mother. If I were the jealous type. Which I’m not. And if I had any reason to feel like that about you. Which I don’t,” she added hastily.
“Of course you don’t.”
“I just wanted to make that clear.”
“Got it, Buffy. You’re not jealous, because you don’t care what I might get up to with other women.” He paused, giving her time to remember her own words when he’d tried to protect his female vampire friends from her, then added, “Good to know.”
“Shut up. And stop grinning.”
“It’s dark, and my face is full of greenery. You’ve got no idea what it’s doing.”
“I know what it’s doing. Just stop it.”  His rich chuckle caused a reluctant smile to cross her face.  “So.... I don’t have to be jealous that you lo-like my mom better than me? ”
“You might, if it weren’t for a few little things.”
Things? What things?
“For one, she reminds me too much of my own mum.”  He stopped and set the tree down again, this time turning around to face her while he held it up with one hand. “And for another....” He tipped her chin up so that she could see his eyes. “Always been a one-woman man, always will be. And I saw you first.”
Her soft “oh” was sighed against the lips he brushed over hers.  When she didn’t pull away, he deepened the kiss until he had to break it to snarl at a passing car that honked at them.  He brought his attention back to her and rested his forehead on hers. “Been waiting a long time to do that again,” he said. “I know I promised I wouldn’t push you, but—”
“It’s... it’s okay. I know it’s been a long time... and I wanted to do it too. I just don’t want to... I mean, I kinda do, but I haven’t had time to really think about it, and—” Another kiss that left her clinging to his neck because her knees had suddenly become jelly stopped that train of thought too.  When they finally broke apart, both gasping for air, she forced her legs straight and pushed against his chest.
“Tree... home... Mom...”
“Right. Get the tree home.”  He took a deep unnecessary breath and shouldered the tree again.  “We’re going to continue this... conversation... after we get the tree tucked into a bucket of water for the night.”
The rest of the journey to Revello Drive took place at a pace that would have left most humans wondering where they went.  Spike took the tree around to the back of the house while Buffy went in the front.
“We got the tree, Mom,” she called as she came in. “Where do you want it?”
Joyce emerged from the kitchen, wearing her bathrobe and carrying a cup of tea. “Buffy! Is everything all right? What about Riley? And what do you mean you got the tree?”
“Spike got a tree for us. He took it around back. We need a bucket of water to put it in.” She started toward the kitchen. “Oh, and Riley’s dust and so are most of his buddies, so you don’t have to worry about him.”
“There’s a bucket on the back porch,” Joyce said. “If you don’t need me for anything, I think I’ll head upstairs. Will you be staying in or do you still have patrolling to do?”
“Um.... I don’t...probably? But it might be late when I... we... I’ll see you in the morning. ‘K?”
Joyce stared at Buffy’s flushed face for a full minute, then sighed.  “Just lock the doors behind you when you and Spike leave. And tell him thanks for picking up the tree.”  Without waiting for an answer, she turned and went up the stairs, leaving Buffy to stare after her, wondering if she’d really just been given permission to spend the night with Spike.
Still bemused, she locked the front door and then went out on the porch to see that Spike had already found the bucket and filled it. The tree was now leaning against the side of the house, happily soaking up water.
“So, what’s the plan, Slayer?”
“How much did you hear, Mr. Bat Ears?”
“Most of it,” he admitted. “Missed a bit while the water was running, but I got the gist of it.”
“Did it sound to you like she thinks I might not be staying here tonight?”
“Did, a bit. Wasn’t exactly a rousing ‘Hoorah, you’re going to shag another vampire’, but it was close enough for me. Didn’t sound like she was planning to get the axe out.”
Buffy snorted. “You know she doesn’t actually own an axe, right? That was the school’s fire axe.”
“Was speaking metaphorically, Slayer.”
“I knew that.”
“Did not.”
“Did too... What are you doing?”
“Kissing you,” he murmured against her mouth. “If you haven’t figured that out yet, I must be losing my touch.”  As he spoke, he was using his lips to keep hers too busy to make words, nibbling, breathing out a few words, then fastening his lips on hers again, whispering a few more words into her mouth, and finally sending his tongue out to tease at hers until she responded.  This time, when Buffy’s knees gave out, they both sank less-than-gracefully to the floor of the deck. Spike managed to land on the bottom, cushioning Buffy’s fall without breaking the kiss.
“Sorry. Are you okay?”
“I’m lying down with you on top of me. If I was any more okay I’d probably spontaneously combust.” He emphasized his words by pushing his hips up against her.
Buffy’s response was to go back to kissing, losing herself in sensation until a chill on her back called her attention to the fact that she was on her mother’s back porch and Spike was trying his best to get her clothes off. With a whimper of protest, she rolled off, only to have him follow her, pinning her down and sucking on her neck.  Instead of the panic his mouth should have caused, she found herself moaning and relaxing bonelessly on the rough boards.
“Oh. My. God. That shouldn’t feel so good,” she gasped, at the same time tilting her head to give him better access.  His warm chuckle against her throat only added to the sensation and she opened her legs to allow his hips to slide between them. His growl and increased suction as he ground their hips together soon had her wrapping her legs around his hips and grinding back. Between Spike’s growls and Buffy’s steadily louder whimpers, anyone within earshot would have had no problem guessing what they were doing.  With a final yelp, Buffy arched against him, holding herself up until his own jerking release was over.
They remained as they were for several minutes, taking deep breaths and listening for anything to indicate they may have awakened Joyce or Dawn. Spike rolled off to the side, keeping one arm across her body as he slowed his breathing.
“Did we wake anybody up?”
He listened for another minute, then shook his head. “Doubt it. Heartbeats are nice and slow, breathing is even. I think your mum and the niblet are still asleep.”
“I can’t believe I just did that. Are you—?”
“Bit sticky, but I’ll live. I’m glad I put that shower in the crypt, though. I don’t fancy rinsing off in the sewer.”
“Ugh!” Buffy sat up. “And on that happy note...”
“Stayin’ here then, are you?” His tone was casual, but Buffy could hear the underlying disappointment in his voice.  She leaned down and kissed him, gently and affectionately and with no tongue so he couldn’t mistake her meaning.
“I think I will. Mom’s not 100 percent yet, and she might need some help in the morning.”  She glanced down at him. “Are you okay with that?”
“Guess I’ll have to be,” he grumbled as he sat up. “Sorry, love. Don’t mean to sound greedy, but you know that was just—”
“That was just... pretty amazing, considering we’re both still dressed and my mom is just upstairs. And I know you want... and I do too. But...”
He touched her cheek and pushed back a stray piece of hair. “But you deserve better than a shag in an old grave. I know that, Buffy. I don’t expect you to move in with me and live in a crypt. But right now, it’s the only place I’ve got where I know we can be alone. Can’t be with you here, with Mum next door and Niblet across the hall. You don’t have a room in the dorm now. My little hole in the ground is all I have to offer you. Fixed the downstairs up some from when you were there before, but I know it’s not what you deserve.”
Buffy shook her head. “That’s not what I was saying. I was just saying that since I’m already here, and Mom isn’t all back to herself yet, I don’t think I should leave again.  Even if she did think that’s what I was going to do.”
“S’pose you’re right at that.” He sat up, then rose to his feet and held out his hand to her. “I’m just being a selfish wanker.”
“Just be patient,” she said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Maybe you should think about getting your own place,” Spike said. “Could live off-campus like the witches do.”
“Uh huh. And I’m going to pay rent on what I make as the Slayer... oh wait. That’s nothing.”
He sighed. “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, alright?”
She raised her eyebrows and fixed him with an “explain why I shouldn’t” look.
“I can afford an apartment, Buffy. But with a dead man living there, it wouldn’t be vamp-proof.  If it was in your name... if it was yours... it’d be safe as houses.”
“You want to make me a kept woman? Just so we can....”
“Don’t look at it that way. I’m just trying to have someplace nicer for you to... visit... Someplace that isn’t vamp accessible and a hole in the ground.”
“Spike... “
“It was just a thought, Slayer.” He shrugged and turned away so she couldn’t see his face, moving toward the end of the porch.  She followed him, putting her arms around his waist and resting her head against his back. She held on to his rigid body until she felt him relax and turn. Stepping back, she looked up into eyes that refused to meet hers.
“Sorry. Over-reacted. What’s left of the Victorian gentleman I used to be is embarrassed that I even suggested it.” He peered down at her. “Although he’s not too keen on the idea of you walking yourself home from a graveyard either.”
“Like that’s never happened.” She rolled her eyes. “And drama queen much? The Victorian what?”
“Nothing. Just, that was my time, wasn’t it? Some of it probably rubbed off on me.”
“Uh huh.”  She stared at him until he looked away and got very busy searching for his cigarettes and lighter.  “So. I’m going to go in. I told Anya I’d help out during the day between now and Christmas Eve, so after I help Mom...”
“You need to get your sleep. Got it. I’ll just take myself on home then. Or maybe take the big git’s surviving mates up on their offer to buy me beer...”
“Okay. Have fun. Don’t get dusty.  I’ll see you tomorrow night. Maybe we can—”
“Don’t’ go promising anything that’s going keep me up all day tomorrow thinkin’ about it, Slayer.  Just say goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Spike,” she said, reaching up to kiss him quickly.
“Goodnight, love.”
By the time Anya had smiled the last customer out of the store, Spike was almost twitching with impatience. He’d been waiting for Buffy since his arrival right after the sun set.
“Can we go now, Slayer?”
“Just let me get my jacket... Okay, let’s go.”
Waving their goodbyes, they left the store, hoping no one else had heard Anya say “They’re going off to have sex.”  They walked together for a few blocks before Spike asked, “Did you eat yet?”
Buffy shook her head. “Only if you count Christmas cookies and gingerbread men.”
He steered her in to a small café and pointed at a table.  “Sit. Gonna feed you real food before you patrol.”
Over her protests that she wanted to catch any new vampires as they emerged from their graves, he insisted she order and eat a hamburger.  Buffy didn’t argue too vigorously since her slayer metabolism meant she was more than ready for something more filling than cookies. She polished off the big hamburger and all the fries that came with it, then looked around for more.
“Don’t look so smug. I was hungry.”
“You don’t eat enough,” he said, pushing his own half-eaten fries at her.
“You won’t like me if I’m fat,” she countered, sticking a fried potato in her mouth.
“I’ll like you any way I can get you,” he said with a growl. “And don’t forget, when I grew up everybody who was anybody looked... prosperous.”
“Prosperous? Was that code for fat?”
“Sometimes it was,” he admitted. “But the point is, you’d have to eat way more than you do now before I wouldn’t like your shape.”
“So you think I’m too skinny?”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “This conversation isn’t going to go well for me no matter what I say, is it?”
“Nope!” Buffy made a little popping noise on the “p”, and smiled at him.
“Then I’m not participatin’ in it any more.  Just eat up and we’ll go kill something.”
“You sure know how to woo a girl...”
“Know what this one likes.”
“So, how many was that? And when do they start noticing it’s almost Christmas and they shouldn’t be out and about?”
“Between the dozen you did for tonight and the fact that tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I think Sunnydale’s going to be about as safe as a Hellmouth can get for the next few days.  Relax and enjoy the holiday, love.”
“Holiday. Slayer. Not words I very often hear in the same sentence.  I kinda like it.”
He put his arms around her and leaned back against the big stone pillar at the entrance, pulling her between his legs and nuzzling her neck.
“I’m declaring the next three days officially evil-free and a slayer holiday.”
“Ummmm,” she said, tilting her head and snuggling closer.  “You can do that?”
“Can. Did. Will do every Christmas season from now on if you like.”
He stopped nuzzling her throat and began to suck on the same place as the night before. In no time, Buffy was panting and whimpering, grinding against the leg he’d slid between her thighs. 
“Come for me, Buffy. Show me how much you like my mouth on your throat. Give in to it, Slayer. Let yourself feel....”
“Guh!”  Buffy shuddered and collapsed against him. “When I can move my arms and legs,” she mumbled, “we’re going to have words about what you said about your mouth on my neck. There may be punching involved...”
His chest shook as he gave one of his deep chuckles that made it so hard to remember that he was an unsoulled vampire with a history of killing slayers. He tightened his arms around her and buried his nose in her hair.  “Whatever you need to feel—” He broke off, raising his head to listen, then releasing her. “Best get those arms and legs working, Slayer. We’ve got company coming....”
In spite of her words, and the fact that she’d been enjoying her stolen moment of lassitude, Buffy was instantly alert, facing the direction in which Spike was looking and straining to see into the darkness.  When what emerged into the pool of light from the overhead light turned out to be a short, fat Santa Claus, Buffy relaxed and laughed.
“It’s just Santa, Spike. And it looks like he’s drunk.”
“That’s not Saint Nick, love. That’s a claus demon in a red suit. And he probably is drunk.  Doesn’t mean he’s harmless. Nasty buggers they can be. Use the suit to get close enough to kids to grab ‘em.”
As the roly poly demon approached, Buffy could see that rather than Santa’s twinkling eyes, this one had beady black orbs that reflected no light. And as he got closer, she saw a mouth full of jagged, sharp teeth. 
“Hello, little girl,” he crooned. “Why don’t you step away from that dirty vampire and come sit on Santa’s lap?”
Buffy gaped at the leering demon, then at Spike. “Is he serious?”
“He is, pet. And I see he’s brought his minions with him.” Spike snarled and the smaller creatures wearing elf costumes shrank back from him.  “Tell you what, Slayer. I’ll take the old fraud on, and you can play whack-an-elf with his minions.”
“Are they evil? Can I slay them?”
“Oh hell yeah, they’re evil. But they’re speedy little buggers. You’re more likely to just scare them into going back underground. But if you can catch it, kill it.”
Spike stepped in front of Buffy and snarled at the claus demon. “This lady isn’t sitting on any laps but mine. You picked the wrong couple’s Christmas to muck up.”
The demon snarled back and extended bony hands with long claws from his sleeves. “Take off, vampire. You’re out of your league here.”
Meanwhile, Buffy had managed to catch one of the “elves” and was using him like a baseball bat to smack the other elves in the head. As she swung him by his ankles, he shrieked and cursed every time his head connected with one of his companions. Eventually he stopped yelling. Whether he was unconscious or dead, Buffy wasn’t sure, but she threw his body on the growing pile of seemingly dead creatures and looked around for more.
“What the hell is she?” the demon snarled as he watched Buffy decimating his minions.
“Well, if I wasn’t here, I reckon she’d be your worst nightmare, but since I called it first...” Spike leapt over the demon’s head, pivoting in the air to come down behind him. He grabbed the head by the bushy white beard and yanked until he’d broken the demon’s neck. The body fell to the ground and began to dissolve, leaving nothing but a blood stained Santa suit behind.
“Huh. Thought that might be a little harder...”
“You killed Santa.” 
“And you killed a bunch of elves. Between the two of us, we’ve pretty much killed Christmas, haven’t we?”
“All those disappointed kids....”
“All those kids who will now live to grow up and not spend their lives as claus demon minions.”
“Please tell me I didn’t just slay a bunch of kids...” Buffy’s face went pale and she looked like she might be sick.
“No, no, love.  Those were little demons right and proper. And not baby demons either. You did the right thing. I was just letting my mouth run off again.”
“Are you sure?”  Buffy’s color was coming back, but she still studied his face intently to see if he was lying.
“I’m sure. If they ever were children, it was so long ago that they can’t remember it.  When I was young, that was what the grown-ups told us to keep us from running about and getting into mischief. Probably wasn’t even true.”
“They warned you about a demon?”
“Well, they didn’t say he looked like old St. Nick, but I’m pretty sure that’s the creature they were telling us to watch out for. Was a different time, love. Not everyone was as educated as they are now and the servants all believed in witches and demons.”
“And now people are so well-educated, they ‘know’ things like vampires and demons don’t exist... What’s wrong with this picture?”
Spike laughed and put his arm around her. “Rest of the world doesn’t live above a hellmouth. Most of ‘em can probably get through a normal live span without ever having to worry about something they aren’t sure they really saw. Only in Sunnyhell.”
As he was speaking, he was gently leading her back into the cemetery.  He dropped his arm and took her hand instead, lifting it to his mouth to kiss her palm.
“Are we going where I think we are?”
He stopped.  “Is that alright? I thought we—don’t have to, but if my balls get much bluer we could hang them on the tree....”
“I’m getting an interesting visual here...” she said with a giggle. “Your balls, hanging on a tree... are you sure you want to put that thought into my head?”
“I’m pretty sure you know you’ve got them in the palm of this little hand, Buffy. Not telling you anything you don’t already know.” He spoke through tight teeth and Buffy felt his grip on her hand loosen. She quickly clenched her fingers tighter and pulled him around to face her.
“I’m sorry,” she said, flinching at how surprised he was at the apology. “You’ve been very patient with me, and I’ve been playing maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won’t with you for too long.”
“Who are you and what have you done with the Slayer?”
“There’s just no point in trying to be nice to you, is there?” Buffy punched him on the arm so hard he yelped.
“Ah, there she is, my violent little Slayer.”  In spite of rubbing his bruised arm, he was smiling at her as she glared at him, hands on hips. He stepped closer to her, unconcerned about the angry look on her face. “What did I tell you about causing pain to a vamp, love?”  He leaned in and nibbled on her earlobe. “Just makes us more... interested.”  He straightened up and began to pull her along again. “Not that I think I could be any more interested than I am right now.  Can we just go to my bloody crypt?” 
Spike closed the door and dropped the heavy bar into place with a satisfying thud. 
“Let me get some candles going, love, then you’ll be able to see your way.”
Buffy watched as he moved off surely, his enhanced eyesight making walking across the dark room as easy as if it was daylight. She’d heard the snick of his lighter, and then warm, flickering candlelight illuminated the room. As soon as he could see that Buffy was able to make her way to the ladder, he dropped down to his bedroom and began lighting candles down there.
“Do you want me to put these out?” she called down. “Doesn’t the light show outside?”
“Prob’ly does, but it doesn’t matter. Don’t care who knows I live here, now that the soldier boys aren’t trying to find me anymore. Just leave them to burn out. Stone doesn’t burn.”
“’K. Here I come, ready or not...” She started down the ladder, only getting half way when she felt Spike at her back. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her the rest of the way down.  “Somebody’s impatient....”
“Somebody didn’t get off when we were interrupted by that bloody demon.  I should’ve killed him just for that, never mind that he was evil.”
With a growl, he pulled her against the bulge pressing into her rear.  His hands wandered all over the front of her body while he continued to rock against her ass and began sucking on her neck again.  When Buffy was whimpering and gasping at the places he was touching her, he finally moved them to the bed and fell backwards onto it without ever breaking contact with her throat. It took him only a few seconds to have her shirt unbuttoned, her jeans unfastened, and one hand on her clit, kneading it until she was pushing up into his hand, reaching over her head, fingers in his hair as he worked her body until she was almost crying in need.
She pulled herself away and rolled off him, shedding her blouse and bra as she did so.  While Spike tore off his tee-shirt and jeans, Buffy kicked her pants and underwear to the floor.  They stared at each other for a few seconds, still breathing heavily, then Buffy threw herself at him. He caught her and fell backwards growling as they ground their naked bodies together. 
He moaned when she opened her legs, and his cock seemed to find her all by itself. Buffy sat up, driving him even deeper as Spike grabbed her hips and held her in place.
“I’m sorry, love,” he gasped, “I’ll make it good for you later, I promise. Right now I just need to....” He rolled them over until he was on top and Buffy had wrapped her arms and legs around him. As though they’d been making love for years, they fell into an easy rhythm that quickly built to something that tested the bed’s ability to absorb their actions.  Buffy met him thrust for thrust and was soon using her own teeth to smother the sounds she wanted to make. When she bit down on his shoulder and shuddered beneath him, he exploded into her, a mixture of profanity and flattery coming from his mouth.
They clung together until Buffy dropped her legs open and exhaled. 
“Wowie, wow, wow,” she breathed into his neck. 
“Right back at you, love.  Was even better than I remembered... and that memory’s kept me happy more often than I want you to know.”
He rolled off, pulling her with him to rest her head on his chest. He twitched when her hair brushed across the bloody tooth marks on his shoulder.
“I bit you! I’m sor—” 
“We’ve had this conversation before. Don’t even think about apologizing for that. There’s no way you didn’t notice what it did to me.”
“But now you’re bleeding. And hurt.”
“Bleedin’ will stop any second, and the pain...” He shook his head.  “You could hurt me like that every day and I’d be looking for more.”
“Vampires are weird,” she said, relaxing into him.  She felt him tense up and frowned, then realized what he was bracing himself to hear.
“I won’t mention him if you don’t,” she said, nuzzling him and kissing her way up his chest to his mouth.
“No idea who you’re talkin’ about,” he said, meeting her mouth eagerly. “There’s nobody here but us.”
“Exactly.  Now, what did you say about ‘later’? And ‘making it good’ for me?  Not that I didn’t think that was good,” she added quickly. “... but now I’m curious....”
Several hours and many demonstrations later, and temporarily sated, they were curled up under a duvet Spike had pulled from an old chest. 
“Is it Christmas yet?”
“One more day, love. It’s Christmas Eve now, though. Probably ‘bout three or four in the morning.”
“Guess mom has figured out by now that I’m not coming home tonight.”
She felt his chest move as he snorted his agreement.
“That apartment idea....” She felt him stiffen.  “Maybe we should look around? Something near the campus? But close enough that I can keep an eye on Mom and Dawn.  Just in case that skanky bitch shows back up....”
He stroked her arm and nuzzled her hair for a moment. “If you’re sure you want to, love. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I just... I want to take care of you sometimes. And I know you don’t really need me to, but... “
Buffy sat up and looked around the underground room. The floor was covered with oriental rugs, both new and used. The walls were still obviously dirt and rock, but Spike had hung fabric on the walls near the bed and it was easy to imagine it was just an unusually decorated bedroom. She already knew about the gate he’d fashioned across the tunnel entrance, and the shower he and Xander had rigged up.  The old toilet that he’d installed and linked to the sewer himself was a surprise, but his embarrassed face when he told her where it was and handed her a flashlight made it clear who he’d had in mind when he installed it.
“Well, it depends on how much of a jerk you’re going to be when I have to get up and go home before dawn sometimes.”
“Do you count seein’ you safely home being a jerk?”
“I think that probably counts more as not growing up as the tough guy you want us to think you were before you got turned,” she said, smiling at his frightened expression. “Doesn’t it?”
“Not going to dignify that with a reply,” he growled, refusing to meet her eyes.
“Well, I don’t know what I want to do, really. I mean, yeah, if Mom knew I had my own apartment, she wouldn’t worry when I stayed out all night. I don’t think we’d be fooling her about where you were, but...”
“Would be easier for you. I know that. You’d have your clothes there, your schoolbooks, food to eat....” He stopped talking to turn his head to nibble on her hip. “And no mum or sis just a thin wall away....”
“On the other hand, I need to be able to watch out for Glory and her minions...”
“If you aren’t living at home, she might forget about the niblet and your mum. She’s got no idea, does she?”
Buffy shook her head. “She just knows I know where her key is. She doesn’t know what it is.”  She sighed. “We haven’t seen her for awhile. Maybe she’s given up...”
“Didn’t strike me as the giving up type, pet. But I hope you’re right.  Mum and sis are always welcome to hide out here – and it’s safer for them now than it was last time they were here – but if there’s no reason for her to be watching your house...”
“So, it’s settled then. We—I’ll get an apartment and you’ll help me pay for it. And I’ll try to pretend that doesn’t make me a kept woman.”
He pulled her down on top of him again.  “Doesn’t make you ‘kept’, makes you loved.  ‘Sides,” he said with a grin. “If you think I’m sleeping anywhere but right beside you, you haven’t been paying attention. ”
“So, we’re going to live together? Like we’re a couple?” 
“If you’re willing. Don’t want to presume anything, Buffy. If I dusted right now, I’d die a happy man. Don’t ever doubt it. Having you here, in my bed, it’s a dream come true.  But I’m not looking for an occasional shag — not sayin’ I’d turn that down if that’s all you wanted, mind you, but....”
He took a deep breath and pushed her onto her back so he could lean over her and look into her eyes. “But I love you. Think I probably always have, just didn’t know it. Dru saw it. It’s why she left me. She said you were floating all around me. I thought she meant I was obsessed with killing you, but now I get why she was so brassed off. She knew what was going to happen.”
He dropped his head down and pressed their foreheads together.  “I’m yours forever, Buffy. If you want me... even if you don’t want me... I’ll still be yours. Whenever, where ever, however.  You tell me what you want, love.”
Buffy blinked at him.  “I... I was just asking if we were going to be a couple.” She smiled up at him as he lifted his head. “I’m guessing that was a yes?”
“Uh... bloody hell! Yeah. It was a yes.” He flopped onto his back again. “Can we just forget the rest of that prattle?”  He lifted the duvet and looked under it.
“What are you doing?”
“Just checking to see if I still have my balls. May have been touch and go there for bit.”
Buffy’s giggle brought a reluctant smile to his face, and he turned to look at her.
“You tell anybody about this, I’ll have to kill you.”
“So I can’t tell anybody that my... boyfriend... is secretly a sweet, romantic man who loves me?”
“Well, no, I’ve got a reputa—boyfriend?”
“Did you think I’d move in with some random guy I don’t even like?”
“You like me?”
“Most of the time. Told you that a couple of months ago, didn’t I?”
“Might have done. But I thought you were just trying to cheer up the big git’s punching bag.”
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it!”
“You also said we weren’t ever going to find ourselves in this position again, didn’t you? How was I to know which one of those statements wasn’t true?”
“I thought it was true when I said it,” she muttered. “It’s not like I was lying, I was just...”
“Just thinkin’ it wasn’t a good idea to shag another vampire, even one that was already evil and had no soul to lose. I got that, love.”
“I was trying to convince myself I couldn’t possibly want you as much as I did,” she said.  “And, yeah, okay, I might have been thinking that I would be crazy to let myself fall—get involved with another vampire, one without a soul. And evil.”
Buffy waited for Spike to call her on her almost slip of the tongue, but he was surprisingly quiet, just gazing at her with the soft expression she was pretty sure he only showed when they were alone.  He picked up her hand and brought it to his lips.
“I’ll never do anything to hurt you or anyone you care about, Buffy. You have my word.”
“You know that pretty much includes the whole world, right?” she said, her mouth twisting into a wry smile.
He sighed. “I ‘spose it does at that. Leave it to me to fall in love with a girl who wears a white hat.”
“I’m the Slayer, Spike.”
“You are. And you’re the best at it there’s ever been. Wouldn’t interfere with that for anything.”
Buffy yawned and snuggled into his side. He pulled the duvet higher and put his arms around her.
“Get some sleep, love. I’ll wake you when it’s Christmas.”
“I can’t sleep that long. I’ve got presents to wrap and cookies to eat and....” Her voice trailed off and her breathing slowed.
“And I’ll be there to help you with it all,” he whispered as he held her close.  “Happy Christmas, Buffy.”
The End