Author's Chapter Notes:
2004 Christmas song fic challenge response at Yahoo group We Band of Buggered.

I own nothing (believe me, the bank will back me up on that!). I do borrow the wonderful characters from the Jossverse to play with and tease, however. I receive no compensation for this, except the satisfaction of having told a story and entertained myself and others ).
Christmas at casa Summers was anything but jolly. The First Evil had returned to finish the war against Buffy that had ended in temporary detente years ago,

Giles had shown up on Buffy’s door with word of impending apocalypse, and three potential slayers in tow for Buffy to protect. Bad enough she had all the responsibilities that had nearly crushed the spirit out of her the year before, but now she was expected to be mother/protector to four teens, not just the one related to her.

Things had been tense enough with Dawn over the whole Spike thing without adding to the mix.

One of these girls had an attitude that reminded Buffy of Faith, without the winning personality. Another was a bit of a ditz. The third, well, the third didn’t matter any more. She was the first casualty of the current war. Annabelle had run, afraid, into the night and been torn apart by the beast that had sprung from the hellmouth to make war on the good people of Sunnydale.

The all powerful Council of Watchers had been blown sky high. The survivors had scattered, trembling behind those few books that they had been able to salvage. Only Giles refused to retreat and had become proactive.

Buffy found it hard to imagine a world without the Council, the Traver’s clones. The Crucimentium would no more be inflicted on innocent young slayers. No more power of life, death and green cards over lesser beings. All gone.

As much as she had hated last summer, Buffy found herself longing for the way things had been then. The only things bothering her then were worry over Willow, and wondering where Spike was, how he was, if she’d ever see him again.

She made her way to his crypt every night after patrol, developing a sudden interest in the History Channel and the company of skin challenged, cheerful, demons to explain her nightly visits. Each night brought the hope of hearing news of Spike, or, better yet, seeing him. At least, last summer, she had reasons to hope for the future.

Now, well, Spike came back but had lost his mind. Buffy didn’t want to think about that right now, or her part in what had led to it. He had been triggered to kill against his will, even hidden from his conscious memory, by the First Evil. His having fought for, and winning, his soul had not saved him from the clutches of that oldest enemy.

Just when Buffy had reason to think they could work through his problems and fix the situation, he had been taken. The house showed the results of the invasion of the Bringers that did the taking. It looked like the war zone it really was, not a happy bungalow.

Giles was getting ready to leave again to bring even more girls for Buffy to be responsible for and no one seemed to understand why Buffy was determined to find Spike and bring him home.

When they had finally gotten some information from that idiot, Andrew (who was still taking up space in her overcrowded home by the way), and found the room leading to the hellmouth, the blood had caused Buffy to feel light headed. She could taste the fear.

They had found a wheel suspended over some archaic markings over the hellmouth. The wheel had obviously been used to torture someone. As Dawn was saying, "There’s blood on this. Lots. Looks like The First made a sacrifice, or a music video", Buffy’s mind was screaming, "Spike, nooo!"

She knew that none of them understood why she cared, why she HAD to believe he was still alive out there. And, yes, alive WAS the word. He may be a vampire, and technically dead, he was still the most alive being she had ever met.

They had too much to sort through, the two of them. Too many issues, feelings, for it to end this way. There were things she needed to say to him, apologies to be made, and accepted. Healing was required on both sides. She couldn’t allow it to end like this, not after all they had been through.

Not after all HE chose to go through so there could even be possible healing. The First had messed with one of her boyfriends before, and lost, it would lose again. She would make sure of it. Spike was coming home.

As for the whining she’d be sure to face from Dawn and Xander, well, they would just have to deal.

Buffy was pretty sure that Willow would understand. She had just taken a massive walk on the dark side herself, trying to wipe out, in one act, the entire population of the planet. No matter how many thousands of victims Spike had at his doorstep, it couldn’t rival that number! Willow knew that as well as Buffy.

Willow would understand about the trigger causing Spike to kill again. Just the other day, Willow had been possessed by the First Evil, scaring Willow into a vow of never using magic again and seriously freaking out everyone else. No, Willow understood how the dark can take you over, even against your will.

Buffy had given a speech to be proud of to the little band after nearly being killed by this super vamp that came from nowhere. Annabelle was dead, Giles was leaving, potentials were being killed, more girls would be coming to her for protection. She needed to sleep, yet sleep eluded her.

"Priorities, Buffy", she thought. "First get Spike back home safe, get rid of the ugly primal vamp, beat the First at its own game, get your house back, then deal with all the rest of it", she decided. "First, get Spike home", she repeated over and over as she tried to fall asleep. It had become her new mantra.


"I don’t see why we should", insisted the girl called Molly. "We’re all going to die before the ‘oliday even gets ‘ere, anyway", she said a bit softer.

"It’s tradition. I don’t know what they do in England….maybe boil a goose or something, but here we put up a tree and lights and stockings and eat turkey and ham and pumpkin pie and we REALLY need this, BUFFY!", Dawn screamed for her sister, "Tell Molly it’s okay to have Christmas even with the end of the world happening again. Geech, we have the end of the world every year around here, it’s just a few months early this year. It usually waits until May. No reason to skip Christmas just because the apocalypse is early", she pouted.

Buffy sighed and went to smooth the teen aged waters with a decision. "Well, maybe we could use some holiday spirit around here. Can’t let the First take away Christmas along with everything else. Okay, a tree, but keep it simple, alright. If nothing else, we can use the branches for stakes if anything gets into the house other than Santa", she decided.

Dawn screeched a victory shout that would have probably driven away even the butt ugly vamp that had nearly killed Buffy. "Okay, I get to go with Giles to pick out the tree before it gets dark and before he leaves to go get more roommates for Buffy to babysit", she said.

"Buffy isn’t MY babysitter", said Kennedy, "I’ve had plenty of training. This is just a good place to make a stand. I’m a warrior, not a baby", she huffed. "Well, maybe I could be someone’s baby", she whispered and glanced at Willow slyly.

Dawn darted out in search of Giles, a mission in mind for the afternoon. Molly, Willow and Kennedy headed for the attic to get out the boxes of decorations for the tree that was promised. Andrew begged to be allowed to go along, but Buffy reminded him he was under house arrest. He settled for baking Christmas cookies under Xander’s watchful eye. He would have to earn the right to no longer be taped to the chair most of the day.


The tree was medium size. Dawn had complained that they could have had a giant tree. With so many people leaving Sunnydale, sales were down. Giles, however, had refused to drag a tree "better suited to the White House lawn" into the Summers living room, tears or no tears!


Someone turned on the radio to a station playing Christmas music and the house began to seem almost festive, almost normal. Like Buffy’s life, always ALMOST normal, but not. Maybe normal was overrated, who knew.

Buffy listened to the Hanson’s singing "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" and began to be depressed.

"The snow’s coming down.
I’m watching it fall.
Lot of people around.
Baby please come home".

She looked at the house overfilled with people, yet the one face she yearned to see was not there and she had no idea where he was or how to get to him.

"Pretty lights on the tree
I’m watching them shine
You should be here with me
Baby please come home"

Things were pretty bleak when Hanson made you want to cry.


Buffy left the living room to see what Andrew was up to and get away from the tormenting trio of tenors reminding her of how little she could do to help Spike, or bring him home.

Anya was talking to Xander when she got to the kitchen. "I don’t know what all the fuss is about anyway. It’s not like lots of happy shoppers are going to be filling my coffers with wonderful profits buying holiday gifts this year. Not that I even have coffers to fill thanks to Willow’s wild spree. We’re all about to die, my very successful business and standing in the Sunnydale business community is gone, you left me at the altar, and demons don’t celebrate Christmas anyway.", she pointed out.

Just then, Clem knocked on the back door with a cheery, "Merry Christmas, Slayer, everybody." He had a box with gaily wrapped presents inside and a smile wide enough to split his face in two. "Just thought I’d bring these by now in case, well you know, I ….um ..might have to go out of town. For the holidays, you know, lots of folks travel for the holidays.", he said sheepishly. "Wanted my favorite slayer and friends to not miss out on SantaClem so thought I’d bring them by early."

"Thanks, Clem, you didn’t need to go to that trouble. You’re a real sweetie. I haven’t exactly been shopping, sorry.", Buffy said.

"No problemo, the joy is in the giving, I always say", replied the jolly, wrinkled, elf wannabe.

"Here, have some fresh baked Christmas cookies", exclaimed Buffy. She began to put mounds of Andrew’s cookies on a plate for him to take with him. "I wish it could be more. I was planning on ordering that tape of the "Greatest Mistakes Of WWII" from the History Channel for you, but, well, things sorta happened", she said sadly.

"Buffy, no human has EVER given me a Christmas present before, these cookies are, gosh, just wonderful.", he said softly. The demon looked likely to cry and began to feel awkward in front of the strange human boy with the oven mitts and the scowl. "I gotta’ go, thanks for the cookies and Merry Christmas, Buffy, I hope all your wishes come true.", he said on leaving.

"Though you said that demons don’t celebrate Christmas?", Xander taunted Anya.

"Well, not sane ones anyway. He’s just kissing up to the slayer anyway.", she said.


The stockings were hung by the chimney, maybe not with care, but definitely with flair. The potentials, and Anya, were off sleeping in their assigned beds and Xander had headed back to his apartment before darkness had fallen.

Giles had gone with Xander to sleep there. Xan was going to be taking him to the airport in the morning as he headed out to gather more of the endangered potentials from the far corners of the world.

Willow was brewing herbal tea in the kitchen and had offered some to Buffy.

Everyone knew that Buffy wasn’t sleeping well. Only Willow really understood that it was the worry over Spike that was troubling her best friend.

Tara had tried to make Willow see the connection between Buffy and the odd vampire. At the time, Willow had not wanted to see anything other than the stalking, obsessed vampire and an unwilling Buffy. Now, Willow saw that there was much more between the two of them than anything that simple.

She hadn’t seen Buffy so genuinely upset over another since Angel. Actually, Buffy was even more focused on getting Spike back safe than she had ever been during the many Angel crises.

Looking back at Spike, Willow had to admit that he certainly seemed to truly love Buffy. What he had endured at the hands of Glory should have proved it to all of them. When he broke down at Buffy’s death, they had began to believe. As he stayed on and helped them that summer, taking care of Dawn, patrolling, saving their lives, there was even an unstated understanding that his feelings HAD been real. Only when Buffy came back did it become easier to return to seeing him as an evil vampire stalking their friend.

Now he was back after a year of a whole secret chapter in her best friends life, having gone after and winning a soul, all for the love of Buffy. Willow, at least, was no longer able to see it as anything but love. From the looks of Buffy since Spike was taken, the feelings went both ways too.

She could only hope for a Christmas miracle for her friend. Losing Tara had made it painfully clear that time did not wait for love, and that each moment had to be cherished and held close, lest it slip away forever.


The radio was playing another holiday song as Willow joined Buffy on the couch. Judy Garland was soulfully singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". The two girls sat and listened, sipping tea in silence.

Judy got to the part that said,

"Faithful friends who are dear to us
gather near to us once more.
Through the years
We all will be together
If the Fates allow",

And both of them began to tear up.

Willow was picturing the sweet, dearly missed, face of Tara. How could she go up to the bed she now shared with Kennedy after that reminder? Willow decided to spend the night in a sleeping bag in another room tonight. Embracing her true beloved.

Buffy, as she had every moment that she didn’t keep herself too busy to think, saw only Spike. Spike with his tilted head, Spike with his love filled glances, Spike hanging on that cross in agony, Spike on that wheel …. She just knew that blood had been his. What she wanted, badly, was to see Spike here, home, safe in her arms.

The next song started and Buffy found herself singing along with "I’ll Be Home For Christmas"

"I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow
And mistletoe
And presents ‘neath the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams"

She got up and went to the closet, pulling out a small package labeled ,"to Spike from Buffy" and, kissing it, placed it under the tree.

She whispered, "the love light IS gleaming, Spike, please come home."

~^~ ~^~

(in a cave near the hellmouth)

Spike lay bleeding and battered. The ubervamp had had another go at him only an hour or so ago and everything felt broken. The thing that kept changing shapes had been gone for at least the last half hour.

He was sure he was hallucinating again. He remembered how Buffy sounded when she sang, but he was only remembering, that was all. Still, it was an odd choice of songs to have his mind conjure up. He could hear her as clearly as if she was there in this cave of pain with him.

"I’ll be home for Christmas
if only in my dreams".

Spike closed his eyes and let the Buffy in his mind sing him to blessed sleep and peace at last.


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