Author's Chapter Notes:
You don't really need to know much about the comics for this - at least I don't think so. It's possible I've been following them for so long that my judgment about that is suspect, though...
Best Bloody Christmas Ever
Mini Prologue to set the scene:
“Well, we do spend every night together.” Buffy’s attempt to explain why Dawn and Xander thought they were dating didn’t get the response she’d hoped for.
“The girls I date... I usually see them at breakfast in the morning.”
Okay. Guess that put me in my place. “Good. So we’re clear then. We’re not dating. Which is fine. Not dating is good. I don’t want to be dat—
She looked up, hoping her disappointment wasn’t as obvious as she was sure it probably was.
“You wanna grab breakfast in the morning?”
Buffy felt her face flush and she tried to hide her smile. Dowling’s words sent her from depressed to happy in record time. Considering that she wasn’t sure she did want to date him, the fact that he might be considering it was making her ridiculously happy.
I really need to get out more.
She tried to reply in a tone just as casual as his.
“I won’t tell Xander and Dawn if you won’t”
He smiled, but changed the subject to their objective for the night.
(And we leave this particular comic issue right now while Dowling is unbitten and Buffy has yet to meet Illyria)
“So, Buffy. You didn’t answer my question about breakfast. It’s light now. You can stop looking around. He’s not here. You might as well have breakfast with me.”
“He? He who? What?”
“Spike. Do you really think no one notices that you look around for him every night? That if the Goodyear blimp goes over in the daytime, you stare at it until you’re sure that’s what it is?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she grumbled, visions of having an actual date disappearing along with her good mood. “I thought you wanted to have breakfast with me.”
“I do. And, just so you know, yeah, that was kind of a way of asking you if you wanted to spend the night doing non-slaying stuff. But I like to think I’m a realistic guy, and I don’t want you thinking you have to pretend around me. There’s somebody in your life. I get that. But he’s not here, and I am. And the holidays are almost here. You shouldn’t have to spend them alone.”
Buffy just gaped at him. “That is just so.....”
“Mature? Insightful? Totally sexy?”
She giggled and stared at him. “All of the above, I guess. When did you get to be so smart?”
He shrugged. “I’m a detective. I know how to read people and put together clues. I don’t know what it is between you and Spike, but it’s something. Something you haven’t moved on from yet. But that’s okay. He’s not here – I am. I know how to play the odds.”
“So, you and the zompire-hunting cop – you’re a thing now? Are you bringing him to the Christmas Eve party?”
“We not a... a... thing. We’re just a sort of... almost, maybe a thing. It’s complicated.”
“Buffy’s love life is complicated. There’s a surprise.” Dawn smiled to take the sting out of her words.
“Very funny. This is the closest thing to a normal guy I’ve been around since Riley. I’m not sure I even know how to be part of a ‘thing’.”
“Well, give it a shot. I’m tired of watching you moping around, and he makes you smile, so I say go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Spike comes back and sees you dating somebody and goes off in another snit. So what else is new?”
The horror on Buffy’s face brought a quick correction. “Not that he would. Leave again, I mean. He wouldn’t. He’d stay here and fight for you. You know he would!”
Buffy shook her head and sighed. “No, he wouldn’t. He’d see me with somebody normal and he’d... he’d think I had what I wanted and he’d go away again. Forever.”
“Spike doesn’t do forever. Not when it comes to you. The only thing he knows how to do forever is love you.”
Buffy grimaced. “Just in case you’ve forgotten... my track record with guys who swear they’ll love me forever is that they end up leaving me. Apparently it’s easier to love me when I’m not around.”
Dawn put a sisterly arm around Buffy and squeezed. “Well Christmas is coming, so you should try to enjoy yourself. Speaking of which, what do you want for Christmas? I don’t have anything for you yet.”
“Spike. I want Spike. And I don’t know how to find him to tell him so.”
She slapped her hands over her mouth. “I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Ignore it.”
“You didn’t. You whispered.” Dawn sighed. “How about something a little easier to find? Like a new sweater, or a winter coat or something?”
“Are you coming tonight? You’re coming, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Dawn. This is the third time you’ve asked me to tell you I’m coming to the party. Do you think I’m lying?”
“No. It’s just... you’re all ‘something came up’ girl sometimes, and I want to be sure you’re going to be here.”
“I’ll be there. And Dowling’s probably coming with me. We’re taking the night off from chasing zompires.”
“Oh. He’s coming with you. That’s... that’s nice.”
“Didn’t you think he would be?”
“Oh, no. No. I mean, yes, I thought he’d be there. I mean you and him... almost a ‘thing’, so of course he’d be with you.”
“Daaawwwnnn, what’s going on?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s ‘going on’. Sheesh. A girl can’t even worry that her sister the slayer might miss her Christmas party for some stupid reason without being accused of... whatever?”
“Fine. Fine. We’ll be there. If we don’t run into any zompires on the way, we’ll probably even be clean and well-dressed.”
“Okay, see? That’s exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. You don’t go looking for zompires on your way to a party. Normal people don’t do that.”
“Right. Normal people.”
“You know what I mean....”
“Sadly, I do. Okay, no zompire slaying unless one throws itself on my stake....”
“Just be here, Buffy. Gotta go. Bye.”
“Bye—” Buffy was saying good-bye to a dial tone.
Buffy and Dowling entered the gaily-decorated apartment in a flurry of laughter and greetings for the first few people they ran into. Looking very much like half of the couple they almost were, he took her coat from her and walked toward the bedroom with it. He was just turning away from the bed full of coats when he saw Dawn pass by. He glanced down the hall to see her pleading as quietly as she could with someone he couldn’t see. Before the other person could come into view, Buffy called his name and he turned away to rejoin the crowd in the living room.
Buffy took his hand and pulled him toward the food table, then froze. Her face went white, then red, then back to white and her eyes darted around the room.
“What’s wrong? Are there vampires here?”
“Wha—no! No vampires. I mean I don’t think so, cause I’d feel them if he-they were. I’ll be right back.” Without even looking at him, Buffy marched across the room and into the hallway he’d just left. As Buffy arrived, Dawn had exchanged pleading for yelling.
“Don’t you go getting all huffy with me, buster. You left her. You left her here without anybody and now there’s a somebody and if you don’t want that somebody to have her, then you’re going to have to stay here and do something about it. If you get back in that ship—”
“She’s happy, Bit. Can see it. I don’t know why you called me back here, but she obviously doesn’t need me here complicatin’ her life. If you think she needs me to help with this turned Slayer, I’ll hang around long enough to do that, but I think I’ve had my fill of watching her having fun at parties with blokes that aren’t me. I’ll catch up with her somewhere tomorrow...”
“I called you back here, moron, because when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said you. That’s what she wants. Dowling is a nice guy, but you’re who she wants. She just thinks you don’t want her any more.”
“Well, that’s just bloody stupid....”
“That’s what I said! But if you leave—”
Spike’s nostrils flared suddenly and he looked toward the door of the bedroom in which he and Dawn had been arguing. As he watched, Dawn turned and saw what he was scenting. Her eyes got big and she backed out of the doorway. She pointed at him, saying, “Stay!” then disappeared.
There was an angry whispered conversation that was perfectly audible to Spike’s vampire ears, and then the scent became stronger and he heard Buffy’s rapidly beating heart. She stopped in the entrance, staring at him with an expression he couldn’t read before coming in and closing the door behind her.
“Hey,” she said, never taking her eyes off his face.
“Hey, yourself,” he replied, searching her face for some clue as to what she was thinking.
Conversation exhausted, they continued to stare at each other from across the room, until Spike finally broke the silence.
“Look, pet, I’m sorry. I didn’t know she was going to spring me on you like this. Thought you knew she’d called me back to.... to help you with that slayer-turned-zompire.”
“That’s not why she called you back,” Buffy said, looking away from him. “I was listening. I know what she told you.”
“Yeah, well. ‘S not like I believed her. Know better, don’t I?”
She brought her frowning gaze up to meet his so quickly he blinked. “You do?”
“Of course I do, Slayer. Saw you when you came in. Got yourself a fine looking breathin’ man to go to parties with and slay vamps and have picnics in the daylight and—”
“Could you be more full of yourself?” Her sudden accusation hurt only as long as it took him to get mad.
“I beg your pardon? Full of myself? Pretty sure I’m giving you plenty of room to have what you want. Take it, you stupid bint.”
Buffy’s narrowed eyes caused his own eyes to flare yellow as she advanced on him. “Who are you calling stupid? I’m not the one that went running off to God knows where with a bunch of bugs, leaving me here to worry about you and miss you and—” By now she was only inches away, close enough to watch the yellow fade as his expression softened.
“You missed me?”
“Of course I missed you! Why wouldn’t I? I was going to run away with you, for crap’s sake. You were my... my safe place. My long-haul guy. The one who’s always there for me. And all of a sudden – whoosh! You go off to ‘find yourself’.“ She stopped to take a deep breath. “What did you think I was going to do? Just sit around here missing you and waiting for you to come back? Huh? Is that what you thought? Cause Buffy isn’t like that. Buffy is a new woman. She dates if... if somebody asks her out.... And she.....” She stopped, peering up at him from under her eyelashes. “I think I’m losing the thread here...”
“I think I caught it.” He moved even closer, until only fractions of an inch separated their bodies. “I’m a jerk for leaving, you missed me, but you weren’t going to sit around being miserable, so you went out with the first man who asked you. Is that about it?”
“Yes! No! That’s not what I said... Is it?” Her lip came out in the pout she knew he couldn’t resist. It briefly crossed her mind that she hadn’t used that pout on him since their disastrous “affair” so many years ago, and she glanced up to see if it was having the desired effect. Instead of the lustful expression she expected to see, he was grinning at her.
“Really, love? You must be feeling really insecure. You haven’t pulled that lower lip trick on me since our ‘engagement’.”
“I’m not feeling insecure! I’m just trying to be... I’m trying to distract you.” Her expression changed from annoyance to fear. “Are you saying I can’t distract you any more? Are you that over me?”
He heaved a sigh and ran his fingers through her carefully curled and brushed hair. “Don’t expect to ever be ‘over you’, sweetheart. Thought I might be workin’ on it once or twice, but it never took. It’s just that... I’m more interested in being in your life than I am in being in your pants. Don’t want to be your walking dildo again.”
“Is that what you think I’m saying? That I just want you because I’m horny?”
“I don’t know what you’re saying, Buffy. Niblet says you’ve been unhappy without me. You’re telling me you’re dating and having a good time. But while your date is waiting for you out there at the party, you’re pokin’ that lower lip at me like you want me to bite it. Don’t know what to think – except that I could probably use a good stiff drink...”
She sighed and stepped away from. “That’s probably a good idea. I think I could use a drink too.”
“Not going to go dancing on any tabletops are you?”
“I think one embarrassing episode like that in my life is plenty, thank you very much.” She whirled to face him just as they started out the door. “But if I did get drunk and try to do something that stupid, I expect you to stop me this time!”
“You’d expect that, would you?” He held the door for her as she went into the hall where she bumped into Dowling. Her eyes flickered back and forth between the two men as they greeted each other like old friends.
“Spike! Buffy didn’t tell me you were going to be here. It’s good to see you. Are you staying long?”
“Depends,” Spike replied, shaking Dowling’s hand. “Want to take a look at this slayer-zombie. See if she’s got the right stuff. Been a long time since I got to fight a slayer, I’m looking forward to this one.”
“So, that’s why you’re here? To help us take out the zompire?” Dowling’s expression was bland, but the hope behind his eyes was impossible to hide.
“Among other things. Niblet wasn’t really clear on everything I was needed here for.”
Dowling nodded. “Well, there might have been some other things, but I think they’re okay now. Or on their way to being okay.”
A muscle in Spike’s jaw twitched as he met Dowling’s challenging stare. “Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
“Okay then! Everybody’s said hello. Wasn’t there talk of drinks? Tasty adult beverages, because we’re all adults and....” She ran out of artificial cheeriness as both men shook their heads and brushed past her to the bar. “All right, it could have been worse...” she muttered to herself as she followed and watched them touch their glasses together in some sort of toast that required them to hold each other’s stare while they drank.
Spike’s drink went down quickly and he held the glass out for a refill, while Dowling was still trying to match the vampire’s ability to guzzle a full glass of whiskey within a few seconds. He finished up coughing and gagging, but bravely held out his own glass to be refilled too.
“So... is there going to be bloodshed?” Xander had come up behind Buffy while she was watching her date and the vampire she’d thought was gone again.
“I don’t think so. Do you think so? I mean, there’s glaring and manly posturing, but I don’t see any fangs or stakes.” She turned her head away from the still drinking men to look at Xander. “And don’t think I’m going to forget that you probably knew about this and didn’t give me a heads up.”
“You’re one of my oldest friends, Buffy. But I live with Dawn, and your sister can be scarier than you when she wants to be. I tried to tell her you should know about it, but she wanted it to be a surprise present.”
“I think you could say she managed that. Not sure which one of us is the most surprised, to tell you the truth.”
“Well, Spike knew you were going to be here, so he shouldn’t have been surprised...”
“He didn’t know I was going to have a date with me. He was ready to leave without even seeing me. If I hadn’t felt him....” She shuddered. “I would have lost him again and never even known about it.”
Xander studied her frightened expression, then put his arm across her shoulders. “If that’s how you really feel about him, I think you should tell him. And Dowling. He deserves to hear the bad news before he’s in too deep.”
“I know.” She sighed. “I think he’s the only of us not all that surprised. I mean, he was surprised that Spike was here, but he knows—”
“He knows what everyone except Spike does? Yeah, that would explain the way he’s trying to drink himself unconscious... oops! Looks like he’s about there...”
Buffy’s gaze went back to the bar where Dowling had just collapsed, caught before he hit the floor by a grinning Spike, who had no trouble carrying the passed-out man away from the bar and to an empty easy chair. He deposited Dowling there and turned to search the room for Buffy.
Who was rapidly approaching him with fire in her eyes. “What did you do to him?”
“Drank him under the table. What did you think I was going to do? Need to talk to you and can’t have some bloke thinks he’s your date listening in, can I?”
“Maybe we should leave?” She stared dubiously at her snoring date. “How long is he doing to be out?”
“No idea,” Spike said cheerfully. “But he’s fine – good strong heartbeat and what all. Probably won’t feel real great when he wakes up, but....”
“We should take him home,” Buffy said. “He deserves to wake up in his own bed.”
“Whatever you say, love. So long as he’s waking up alone...” He didn’t even try to suppress his sigh. “Get your coat?” He started toward the bedroom.
“You won’t know which one.... oh yeah,” she made a face as he raised an eyebrow and tapped his nose. “The smelling thing. So gross.”
“Has its uses,” he said as he disappeared and returned almost immediately, holding her coat for her. While Buffy shrugged it on, he picked up the unconscious Dowling and put one arm across his shoulder. With a strong arm around Dowling’s waist, he managed to make it seem he was just helping a friend to the door – not carrying a heavier man with one powerful arm. Waving at Dawn and Xander, Buffy held the door open and then followed Spike and Dowling out.
“How far are we going, pet?”
“Is he too heavy? Here, let me help—”
“’S not that. It’s just I don’t want to be stopped by any of his police buddies wondering why I’m carting his arse around.”
“Actually, he lives right up there.” Buffy pointed at a near-by building.
It took only a few minutes to get to the building and for Buffy to search Dowling’s pockets for the keys needed to get in to the building and then the apartment. She gave a half-hearted smile to one the neighbors who recognized her. “Too much to drink,” she explained. “He’ll be fine.”
The neighbor tsked and went about her business. Breathing a sigh of relief, Buffy pointed to the door of Dowling’s apartment and ran ahead to use the key to open it. Spike followed her in, now carrying Dowling over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry as he went down the hallway to the bedroom. He dropped his burden on the bed and stood there, nostrils flaring.
“If you’re sniffing around, trying to figure out if I’ve been sleeping here, I’ll...” The look on her face made it very clear what she intended to do to him.
“Sorry, love. Could have just asked you, couldn’t I?”
“Because it’s any of your business, Mr. I’ve-been-gone-forever-and-tried ‘moving on’?” The deadly glint in her eyes hadn’t softened and he backed away, hands raised in front of him.
“Right. It’s none of my business. Absolutely none of my business. Got no claims on you, no right to—”
“Damn right you don’t,” she grumbled, trying to hang on to her anger. “And just so you know, and can stop that gross sniffing stuff, no, I don’t sleep here. Not yet, anyway...”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means... I don’t know what it means. I wasn’t expecting you to show up. I thought I needed to... to open my... mind... to the idea of falling—being with somebody else.”
“And now?” He approached her slowly, his expression unsure but hopeful. “Still think you need to be open to... whatever you’re trying not to say... with somebody else?”
“I don’t know,” she said, her lip coming out in a genuine pout this time. “Are you going to go running off again?”
“Not if you don’t want me to.” His response was quick and calm, but his eyes were riveted on her lip. “But you need to be clear, Buffy. I don’t want to be jerked around – playing the old friend and fightin’ buddy. I’ll help you out when you need me, but I won’t stick around waiting for you to notice I’m here.”
Buffy put her hand to his cheek, stroking it as he leaned in. Forcing herself to maintain eye contact, she said, “I always notice when you’re here, and I hate it when you’re gone. I’m sorry you couldn’t – I didn’t tell how important you are to me. I’m not good at it stuff like that. You know that. You know me better than anyone – couldn’t you tell?”
“Needed to hear it, sweetheart.” He turned his head and kissed her palm, holding it against his mouth. “Needed to be sure. Been wrong before. Never want to be that wrong again.”
Buffy knew immediately he was referring to all the times before that he’d tried to convince her she loved him, and what it had cost them.
“You weren’t wrong, Spike. I just wasn’t willing to believe it was possible. I was too stubborn and too... unhappy about being alive... to feel it.”
“And now I can tell you – when you aren’t even on fire. I love you, Spike.”
A groan from Dowling brought their heads around. They had completely forgotten that they were standing in the bedroom of the man she was dating. As soon as Spike ascertained that Dowling was still asleep, he took Buffy’s hand and began to pull her toward the door.
“Don’t think your date’s bedroom is the right place for this kind of conversation, love. Got someplace else we can go?”
“I’ve got roommates,” she said pulling the door shut behind her and checking to see if it had locked. “What about you?”
He shook his head. “Just had the bugs drop me off on Dawn’s roof. Wasn’t looking for a place to live until I knew what was what.” He pulled out his wallet and checked the contents. “But I’ve got enough money to get us a nice room for the night, and maybe tomorrow night too.” He cocked his head at her. “What do you think, Slayer? Are you willing to spend the night before Christmas in a hotel with me?”
When she didn’t respond right away, he put the wallet away, saying quickly, “Don’t have to. Wasn’t presuming, pet, just thought we’d do a better job of thrashing things out if we didn’t have to worry about your roommates.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to, I was just trying to think about the closest nice hotel. It’s not like I’ve got a lot of experience with places like that.”
“May as well start getting used to it,” he said, smiling again. “I plan to show you the world, one five-star hotel at a time....”
“I’ll settle for the Hyatt that’s about six blocks from here,” she said with a shy smile.
“The Hyatt it is, then.” He held out his arm. “My lady?”
“Thank you, sir,” she simpered in her best imitation of what she thought a Victorian lady might be like. His rich laugh told her she’d hadn’t quite made it, but the warm smile he followed it with said that he appreciated the effort. Their attempts to appear to be a well-behaved and gently-raised couple lasted only until the end of the block when a deep snarl brought them whirling around to stare into the darkness.
“Is that her?”
“Yep. Zompire on steroids. She’s beatable, though. Just tougher than most.”
“My kind of fight,” he said, bringing his own game face to the fore when the zompire emerged and snarled at him, clearly expecting to see some sort of fear on his face. She hesitated just long enough for Buffy to flank her, leaving her no choice but to turn her back on one or the other of the enemies facing her. Screaming in frustration, she dove at Spike, claws out and fangs gnashing. Rather than dodging, he met her tooth for tooth, claw for claw, growling his own challenge.
Buffy danced around their whirling, snarling bodies, afraid to plunge in with her stake while they were so intertwined. It wasn’t until the zompire pinned Spike to the ground that she began to worry about him. Worry that soon vanished as he kicked the creature completely away, giving Buffy time to land on her, stake first.
She shook her head, knowing from the dust that the zompire was gone, but having a hard time believing it was over so quickly. She stood up, brushing herself off and leaning against Spike who was standing behind her with his arms around her.
“Good night’s work, Slayer.”
“You did it,” she replied, tilting her head back to smile up at him. “All I did was drive the stake in.”
“That’s the important part, yeah?”
She turned around, putting her own arms around his waist and standing on her toes to nibble on his lips.
“Weren’t we on our way to somewhere less... public and chilly?”
“That we were. Race you there....” He glanced down at her high-heeled boots. “Or not.”
“Hey, I can run in these, I’ll have you know. I just fought in them, didn’t I?”
“That you did, love. But what say we just walk as fast as we can?”
“Oh God. I missed that—you, so much.”
He chuckled. “I heard you the first time. Nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.”
“I think your touch is just fine,” she purred. “I’m not sure about mine, though... I might be a little out of practice... mmmmm?” She slid down his body and closed her lips over his cock, smiling around it when he gave a sound somewhere between a sigh and a sob. He let her show him how much she remembered about pleasing him for as long as he could stand it, then stopped her with a gentle hand and a whisper.
“No more, love. Come up here.” He tugged her up his body, then rolled them over. “Want to be in you when I come the first time. I’ve waited too long for this, had too many dreams that turned out not to be real. Need to feel you around me.”
Buffy silently wrapped her legs around him and pulled him in, gasping as she felt him filling her. For several minutes they just lay together, lost in the sensations so familiar, and yet so new.
“Could dust happy right now,” he said, beginning to move his hips. “Wouldn’t even notice it.”
“Please don’t,” she replied. “I’ve got plans for this body, and they don’t include sweeping it up and putting it in a baggie.”
“Oh yeah. Big plans. I’ve-been-waiting-for-too-long-plans. I’m never letting you out of my sight again. You hear me, William? Never leave me again.” She squeezed him to her with powerful arms and legs, her inner muscles doing their own best to keep him where she wanted him.
He groaned and began to thrust harder. “Never, Buffy. Never again. Won’t leave you. Couldn’t. Not now.” Feeling her beginning to quake around him, he let himself spurt into her. “I love you, Buffy. Love you so much!”
As he collapsed on top of her, she murmured in his ear, “I love you too, Spike. I love you.”
They were still for a few moments, then Buffy felt him growing inside her again. She smiled up at him.
“Merry Christmas to me,” she said, squeezing him again.
“Merry Christmas to both of us,” he corrected, groaning in spite of himself. “Best bloody Christmas ever....”
“Best Christmas ever,” she echoed, flipping them over as the bedside clock turned midnight . “And it’s just beginning.”