Author: Uisge Beatha
Disclaimer: Joss owns 'em I just take'em out and play with them occasionally.Author's Notes: This story takes place in what would have been the 8th season of Buffy. It's an AU in that Spike did the smart thing and: 1) believed Buffy when she told him she loved him, and 2) left with her when she asked him to. This takes place several months after the battle with the First and Buffy, Spike, Willow and Wesley are now living in Cleveland, fighting vamps and helping to train several of the new slayers. Wesley is working for the new Council of Watchers and has been assigned to help out in Cleveland, and is in this story because I wanted those extra points, damn it! My first B/S fan fic. Ever. Thanks so much to my beta, friend, and roommate, xyellowroset for her continued help. Also, thanks to Jerusha for hosting the Holiday Ficathon and encouraging me to stick my toe in the vast BtVS fan fiction pond.
Four voices of four hamlets round, From far and near, on mead and moor, Swell out and fail, as if a door Were shut between me and the sound; Each voice four changes on the wind, That now dilate, and now decrease; Peace and good will, good will and peace; Peace and good will, to all mankind -Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"I swear, if Christmas never comes again, it will be too soon," Buffy huffed, throwing down the four large shopping bags in her hands, their brightly colored contents tumbling out onto the living room floor.
"That's not very merry, luv," Spike looked up from the book he was thumbing through.
"So says the lazy-ass vampire who hasn't gotten up off of said ass since I left this morning," the Slayer snorted, flopping down onto the floor next to her purchases.
"That's not true. How do you think that tree got here?" he looked back to his book, but gestured to the corner of the room with his free hand.
Buffy frowned, looking at the small, straggly tree standing rather lopsided and non-too-steady in its stand. She looked back at Spike, raising a brow. "Yeah, you really outdid yourself there, Sport. Surprised you're not taking a recuperative nap out of sheer exhaustion."
Spike glanced up at the tree and then turned his gaze to Buffy. "What? You said you wanted a tree. I got you a bloody tree."
"Spike, I know, being a vamp and all, you're probably not all that into this particular holiday. . . but even you should be able to tell what a sorry excuse that is for a Christmas tree." Buffy looked back at the sad little sapling and grimaced as several dozen or so of its needles cascaded to the floor.
"Oi, I'm as up on the Yuletide season as you, Slayer, probably more. Victorians practically invented the bloody holiday." The Vampire snorted, closing his book with a bit more force than necessary. "But considering the constraints I was under, this was the best I could do." He got up from his chair and tried unsuccessfully to straighten the forlorn little tree, only managing to shake loose even more needles from its spindly branches.
Buffy tilted her head to the left and then to the right, following the rotation of the tree as Spike attempted to adjust it. "What constraints?"
"Well, having to search for the bloody thing at night, for one thing. Then let's not forget the budget I was given. Which, if I remember correctly, was a big fat zero." He gave up on the tree and turned back to Buffy, a look of frustration crinkling his brow. "Come on, cut me a bit o' slack here. Where's all that good will towards men and peace on earth I've been hearing about."
Buffy flopped onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. "Sorry, all out, on both counts. Besides, you aren't a man." At his audible huff, she added, "You know what I mean."
Spike shook off the affront to his manhood and sat down next to Buffy, taking one of her hands in his. "That bad, pet?" When she sighed and closed her eyes, he threaded his fingers through hers, trying to give her tactilely the only thing he could at the moment, his presence. "Is it the girls? Are they rattling your nerves again? Just say the word and I'll go and bash some baby-slayer heads together."
Buffy smiled, her eyes still closed. "No," she sighed softly. "Oh, sure I'd love nothing more than to graduate them all from Slayer University and send them on their way, but, I can't. It's my duty to make sure they're trained."
"Not yours alone, pet. Rupert could take a few more. After all, he's got Xander helpin' 'im ." He frowned down at their joined hands, wishing he could take away some of the burdens she carried. He hated when she got like this. It was like she was lost and nothing he did could help her find her way. "You shouldn't have to take it all on your shoulders."
Buffy looked up at him. "It's not them," she squeezed his fingers, then pulled her hand free. She pushed herself up to sit cross-legged next to him, continuing in a soft voice, "It really isn't, Spike. It's just. . ."
"What is it then?" He reached out to brush a lock of blonde hair from her eyes, gently tucking it behind her ear. He watched as she stared down at her hands, clasped in her lap. "Tell me." He tried again, wanting so badly for her to share this with him.
"I'm just not in the making merry mood this year. I miss. . ." She hesitated.
"Your mum," Spike finished for her in a soft voice. His hand came to rest on her shoulder, while he moved his palm in small, soothing circles, trying to ease the tension in her muscles. He watched her green eyes move to the middle of his chest, slowly making their way up to meet his own.
"Yeah," she whispered. "That's part of it, but I also miss the way things used to be. It doesn't even feel like Christmas. Funny, with all the snow, you'd think it would, but it's not California and, well, something just seems to be missing." She sighed and at last leaned into him, her head on his shoulder, his arm going around her waist to pull her into his embrace. "You know the really sad thing? I don't even remember what Christmas is supposed to feel like anymore. It's been so long. . ."
"Yeah," Spike sighed, pulling her even closer into his arms. "I'm kinda running on well worn memories, myself, luv. Been a long time since this season really meant anything for me."
Buffy looked up at him then, her eyes bright. "Then why do we still do it? I mean why put on the act? It's a sham. It's like we're doing it because we're supposed to, not because we feel it. What sense does that make?"
"Never found much sense to life in general, heh. No rhyme or reason." Spike chuckled sadly, leaning down to kiss the tears away from the corners of her eyes. "Why, would Christmas time be any different, luv?"
Before Buffy could respond, the front door burst open. Dawn, her arms full of brown paper grocery bags, flew in. Willow and Wesley straggling behind tossed their coats onto the easy chair.
"Ho-Ho-Ho," Dawn exclaimed, skirting past Buffy and Spike and making her way into the kitchen.
"Who ya callin' a Ho?" Willow quipped in her best attempt at a Jersey accent.
Wesley visibly winced, then smiled down at his two friends on the floor. "The market was absolutely mobbed. We couldn't even find a trolley. Thank the Lord I ordered the goose from the butcher some weeks past."
Dawn strolled back out of the kitchen. "All the makings for an authentic British Christmas dinner are in the kitchen. I shopped, I purchased, I dragged home. My sherpa duties are complete. Someone else can put them away."
Wesley raised a brow at the young woman. "I'm to do all the cooking; I shouldn't have to be the one to unpack." His eyes swung to the young witch still standing in the opening to the family room.
"Hey, don't look at me. Jewish Wiccan here. While I will partake of the goose and plum pudding, my talents are best served by decorating the festive holiday . . . tree." Her voice trailed off as five pair of eyes focused on the sickly specimen of fir that now appeared to be doing an impression of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the corner of the living room.
"Hmmm. . . " Dawn tilted her head to the angle of the tree and squinted at it, as if my doing so the fir would somehow look better. "It's gonna take some mojo of the super-dooper variety to make that tree . . and I'm being mondo-generous in calling that pile o' kindling a tree . . . even vaguely festive."
"Everyone's a soddin' critic." Spike grumbled, rising from the carpet and reaching down to give Buffy a hand up.
"Let me at it," Willow said, hands on her hips as she surveyed the tree. "Mondo Magic is my middle name. Dawnie, where are the ornaments?"
"Ornaments?" Dawn chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip. "Gosh, not sure we even have any. The great flood of 2000 pretty much did in our ornament collection." She looked over at Buffy for confirmation.
"Nope, Wils, no ornaments to be had. Would costume jewelry do?" At her friend's appalled look she added, "I mean really nice costume jewelry, of course."
"I might have a few baubles floating about," Spike offered, moving to sit on the sofa, pulling Buffy on to his lap as he did so. "Back at the old crypt. Remember having some holiday brick-a-brack shoved in one of the coffins. Dru loved the holiday."
"Oh, sweetie, that's so . . . " Buffy paused, appearing to search for just the right word, as she kissed his cheek. ". . . Scary. Thoughtful, Sweetie, but most definitely scary."
Willow seemed to sense Spike's rising irritability--although his glowering at Buffy was her first clue--and interceded. "Looks like a trip to Le Tarjay is in order. Wesley, care to power up the Watcher Mobile and give Dawn and I a lift to gather up some decorative goodies?"
"Ornaments!" Dawn chortled, grabbing up her recently discarded jacket and purse. "And garland. We must have garland."
Wesley chuckled at her enthusiasm, reaching into his pocket for his car keys. "Dawn, really, tinsel is the only way to go."
"No way. There will be no fuddy-duddy tinsel on the Summers' X-mas tree." The teen punctuated her statement with a poke to the Englishman's ribs, darting out the door before he could retaliate.
Willow grabbed her own jacket, following Wesley to the door. "Well be back in a bit," she called over her shoulder to Buffy and Spike. "Ho. Ho. Ho."
"Who you callin' a Ho?" Wesley's words drifted back to the couple on the couch as the front door clicked shut. Buffy rested her head on Spike's shoulder, listening as the Watcher's car purred to life and backed out of the drive.
"Now, there, luv, is your rhyme and reason."
Spike's breath ruffled her hair and she tilted her head to look up into his eyes.
"Huh?" was her eloquent response.
A smile caught the corner of his mouth. "The sense we were both trying to make out of the holiday season, Buffy. That was it."
"Sorry, still don't get it," she toyed with the button on the collar of his shirt.
"Time changes things. Life happens, and we all move on. We have memories of the good old days, but it never is quite the same." He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and she closed her eyes and tucked her head under his chin. "Not sayin' we can't long for those ol' times. Jus' that if we spend to much time lookin' back, we miss what's comin' up the pike. Gotta take what we have, be thankful for it, and start makin' new memories."
"But what if . . ." Buffy sighed, nuzzling into his neck. "What if I still don't feel it?"
"Fake it till you make it," Spike said.
Buffy's eyes narrowed but she continued to nuzzle the vampire, every so often placing soft kisses on the cool skin of his neck. "Have you been watching Dr. Phil again?"
"No!" Spike huffed, glancing down at her from the corner of his eye. "But, you know, the man makes good common sense."
"Uh huh," Buffy smiled into his skin, his nearness beginning to ward off her melancholy mood.
"Look, life isn't a soddin' bowl of cherries for me either, Buffy, but I know I got lots to be thankful for these days. Found my soul, didn't I? Found my way back to you. That in itself is a bloody miracle. Not sure I know my way around this new life of mine yet, but I sure as hell am glad to have the chance to suss it out."
"I am to," Buffy murmured her lips exploring along the line of his jaw. "I'm thankful we made it to Cleveland . . . and believe me, I never thought I'd live to see the day I'd utter that statement."
Spike chuckled, relaxing as he felt Buffy's spirit begin to shine again. It was never a good time when his girl was low. She drew him right along with her when one of these moods hit. It was like they were of one mind, one spirit these days. Ever since that moment in the Hellmouth when she'd threaded her fingers through his and told him that she loved him. She dragged him out of that hell pit and smack dab into the middle of her life--the middle of her heart. He'd like to have said they ran from that place and never looked back, but it seems that was all they did these days. Look back. Old times here were most definitely not forgotten. No matter how hard they tried.
The feel of her lips on his skin helped him to relax. He drew in an unneeded breath, enjoying the smell of her hair. It smelled of honey and vanilla and something else that was indefinable, but undeniably Buffy. "Maybe we need to stop trying so hard to forget, pet." His voice dropped an octave as her lips continued their exploration of his neck. "Think maybe we just need to give in and realize that there will always be people and places we miss, that won't be a part of our lives in the same way. Some we might rarely see again, some we may never see again. But who's to say that we can't wrap up those memories in some new ones and carry them with us where ever we go. You and me, luv, we've got a lot o' history making ahead of us. Need to learn to look back fondly on those days gone by and take those old traditions and dress 'em up into new ones."
Buffy sighed, her breath warm in his ear. "New traditions," she murmured, her voice vibrating through his skin, prickling the hairs on the back of his neck.
"Yeah. Like Wesley cookin' us a Christmas goose," Spike chuckled, his hand finding its way around the waistband of her jeans, his fingers sliding against the warm skin of her back where her blouse had pulled loose.
"Speaking of gooses," Buffy smiled against his neck. "One of Santa's elves grabbed my ass at the mall this afternoon. Perv."
"Well, now there's a new tradition I can get behind," He emphasized the last word by quickly stroking his hand down over her ass and pinching the firm flesh beneath her jeans.
She laughed, the sound like music vibrating against his chest. He slowly ran his fingers back up the seam of her jeans, once again finding the warm flesh of her lower back.
"Okay," she said with conviction, sitting up in his lap and taking his face in both her hands. "Feeling better now. Still missing Giles and Xander, but I think I might be able to find a few heaping scoopfuls of peace on earth and goodwill to man . . . and vamp . . . kind."
Spike looked up at her, relieved to see the warmth and joy retuned to her green eyes. "Who knows where any of us'll be next Yuletide, luv. We might go on over to Jolly Ol' and celebrate with Ruppert and the Boy Wonder. You jus' never know. Life has a way of happenin' while we make other plans, if I may paraphrase John Lennon."
She smiled into his cool, blue eyes. "That's true, none of us really knows for certain what the future holds, but . . ."
"Hell, Slayer," Spike interrupted, a grin turning the corners of his mouth. "If enough of those Slayerettes make it through graduation day, you could be retired by next Christmas, and I could be. . ."
"Alive," she murmured softly, interrupting him in return.
The smile fled his face. He didn't like this train of thought and he certainly didn't need it traveling in this direction. To many ifs, ands, or buts, involved for his liking. "Ah, yeah, the Shanshu thing. Well, luv, I guess anything is possible, but we can't be sure, I don't want to get either of our hopes up."
Buffy gave him a soft smile, ducking her head to capture his lips in a kiss. It deepened, slowly, until he gently rolled her back onto the sofa, her hips and belly cradling his as he stretched out atop her. Nothing like a good snog to get the conversation back on track. Or not, he mused, his fingers lacing through the softness of Buffy's hair. He rained open-mouthed kisses along her jaw, moving up to her ear to nibble the lobe with blunt teeth.
"Spike," her voice vibrated in his ear, causing tremors to move like lightening down his spine, finding a home in the junction where their hips met. "About the Shanshu," she continued. "Well, you see, I've been having this dream . . ."
His head shot up as he looked down into her amused eyes.
"Huh?" was his eloquent response.