Christmas Once Again


by Saber ShadowKitten
Holidays: Part 14
PG-13 Version








Prologue



Spike savored the feeling of her hot body surrounding him. His mouth was pressed to hers, his tongue involved in a lover's dance with her own. Buffy's hands ran up and down his bare back. Sometimes her fingers would press into his skin as a tremor of pleasure coursed through her.

He shifted his weight to one side, allowing him use of his left hand. He raised it to brush the tips of his fingers along her temple and down her cheek before he broke the kiss. He lifted his head and opened his eyes, his hand brushing down over her lips.

Buffy opened her eyes and Spike saw they were heavy with desire and love. He put his forearm back beside her head, and just watched her....

"I love you, Buffy," he whispered, his voice husky and deep with emotion.

A beautiful smile spread over her face, the corners of her eyes crinkling, the blue-grey orbs alight with happiness. "I love you, Spike," she said, her soft voice caressing the words, making his heart catch and tears spring to his eyes.

So she wouldn't see him crying, Spike bent his head and captured her lips again, pouring all his love for her into a single, earth-shattering kiss.

And after their bodies had reached satisfaction, Spike held Buffy in his arms, not knowing if this time would be his last.



Part One



"Okay, Friday night is the Bronze Christmas Eve party," Buffy said, flipping through the stack of mail in her hand. "Saturday night we're getting together with everyone at Giles's place, which gives us Saturday during the day for our own two-people-only Christmas."

"Sounds good, pet," Spike said, not raising his eyes from the legal pad he was writing on. He winced as a bolt of pain lanced through his middle. He ground his teeth together and shifted his gaze to the printout next to the pad on the coffee table.

"Hey, we got a card from my Dad," Buffy said, surprised. She set their mail down on the corner of the coffee table, then sat down on the opposite end of the couch from him, tucking her feet up under her.

"Mm-hmm," Spike said absently, scratching a sentence out and rewriting it.

Buffy glanced at her distracted husband and grinned impishly. "My Dad says he's coming up from LA to stake you to a cross after burning off all your hair."

"That's nice, luv."

"Spike!" Buffy kicked his leg with her foot. "You're not even listening!"

Spike looked over at her, a frown on his ashen face. "Yes, I was," he lied.

"Oh really?" Buffy said, arching her brow. "What did I just say?"

The blond vampire set his pen down, turned and crawled up onto the couch over his giggling mate. He smiled down at her, his face inches from her own. "You said you wanted me to shag you senseless."

"You were listening." She wrapped her arms around his neck, the Christmas card falling to the floor from her lap.

"Tell me you love me, Slayer," Spike said, his tone playful.

"I love you, Slayer," Buffy said, wrinkling her nose at him.

He shifted his weight to one hand, and proceeded to tickle her with the other. Buffy screeched in laughter, trying to squirm out from under him, but he had her legs trapped under his. "What was that, pet?" he asked, his fingers dancing along her ribs.

"I love you, Slayer!" Buffy shouted, her voice choked with laughter.

"You're going to get it, ducks," he threatened.

"Promise?" she asked, her eyes bright with mischief.

Spike growled lightly at her and dropped his head to nip at her lower lip with his fangs as he let his true face show. Buffy giggled again, her blue-grey eyes meeting his golden ones, then she pulled him down into a proper kiss.

Their tongues played together for several long minutes before Spike pulled back. He sat down on the couch correctly, then hauled Buffy onto his lap with a muttered, "C'mere, you."

Buffy wiggled on his lap. His hands captured her hips, pulling her tight against his lap, his face returning to its smooth, human planes. With a smile on her lips, she began to unbutton the pink flannel shirt she wore only for lounging around the apartment....

*****

He withdrew his fangs and laved his tongue over the twin puncture wounds before pulling back from her. She gave him a pleasured smile, a sated look in her eyes. He pressed his lips to hers briefly, then moved out of her to sit down on the couch by her feet as his body went weak.

Not wanting her to know how bad-off he really was, Spike made a show of looking at the clock, then looking back at his lover as he tucked himself back into his jeans. "You'd better shower, pet. It's almost time for you to go on patrol."

"You mean you don't want the other vamps to smell you all over me?" Buffy teased, standing.

"Them I don't mind," Spike said, giving her a small grin. "But I doubt your Watcher wants to be reminded that you're a sex-crazed Slayer."

She rolled her eyes, grabbed her pants and panties, then headed back towards their bedroom. Spike slumped down, his head dropping to the back of the couch the moment she was out of sight. Since the day after Thanksgiving, he'd done everything he possibly could to look as though he was just fine. Except for the odd coloring to his skin and the occasional bolt to the bathroom when she was home, he'd managed to convince Buffy that he had pretty-much healed from the bullet to his brain.

Which was, of course, a big, fat lie.

He was dying.

And this time permanently.

Raising a shaky hand, he rubbed his closed eyes, trying to will the strength back into his body. He had too much to do and too little time to do it in to be weak from the garlic fragments eating away at his insides. Taking a purposeful breath, he forced himself to sit up and pick up his pen again.

He needed to finish his will before the Notary woman left her office at eight.



*****



"I can't decide if I want to make Snowballs or Crackles for Christmas," Buffy said, her hands shoved in the pockets of her winter coat, the light from the full moon causing her anklet to twinkle, as she walked with Faith through Hammersmith Park on patrol.

"Your Mom and me bought those little mushroom thingies to bring," Faith said. "You know, the ones with the strange puffy stuff on top."

"Stuffed mushrooms," Buffy told her. "And when are you going to stop saying 'your Mom?' She's now your Mom, too."

Faith shrugged uncomfortably. "I ain't had no Mom in a long time, and I just got lucky with Mrs. S. wanting to give my big ole butt a place to sleep."

"Mom loves you, and you know it," Buffy said.

"Can we get off this merry-go-round?" Faith said sharply. "We have vampires to dust, and I don't think they care about my home life."

"Fine, fine, I'll zip my mouth," Buffy said.

They continued on patrol for a few minutes in silence, save their footsteps on the long-fallen leaves.

"Snowballs."

"Excuse me?" Buffy asked, looking at the brunette Slayer.

"Make the Snowballs," Faith repeated. "I like it when they stick to the roof of my mouth and get powder sugar all over everything."

Buffy nodded. "Then Snowballs it is," she said, then grinned. "Maybe I can get Spike to help me."

"B, I'd like to eat the cookies on Christmas, not New Year's," Faith joked. "Speakin' of the upcoming Y2K, what're you and the blond blood-sucker doing?"

"We're going on a long-belated honeymoon," Buffy replied. "But I don't know where. He's been all secretive and stuff, not letting me see what he's been writing on that legal pad of his. Not that I can read his scribble anyway. His handwriting looks like an escaped mental patient got hold of a pen."

"Where do you want to go?" Faith asked.

"I've hinted heavily about going somewhere like Hawaii, where it's still warm this time of year," Buffy said. She gestured to the area around them. "Not that we're having a blizzard here right now."

"Yeah, but last year it was, like, eighty then wham-o, snow two feet high," Faith reminded her.

"And I found Spike building a snowman," Buffy said, a smile crossing her lips. "Cursing at it the entire time he was working on it."

"Admit it, B, you fell for the doof the second you set eyes on him playing in the snow," Faith said.

"No, I didn't," Buffy told her. Faith gave her a skeptical look, but the blond shook her head. "I didn't."

"Well, then when?"

"When he told me he didn't even kill anyone to give me this," Buffy replied, stopping to hold up her foot, the anklet twinkling merrily around her ankle.

"How romantic," Faith commented. "Talking of killing, tell your main squeeze not to snack on Chris, k? I kinda of like my new hottie's blood where it is."

Buffy sighed. "I'll tell him."

They walked on for a few more minutes in companionable silence, moving out of the park towards one of the cemeteries. Neither girl saw any signs of activity, be it vampire or human, only endless Christmas lights and decorations lining the streets.

"How can you stand it?" Faith asked suddenly.

"How can I stand what?" Buffy said, glancing at her sister-Slayer.

"Spike doing the same thing as the vampires we stake," Faith clarified.

"I try not to think about it," Buffy said. "I keep hoping that he'll just stop, especially since he's been drinking mostly pig's blood since after his coma. Wouldn't it be great if that was my Christmas present?"

"Pos," Faith agreed. "If you want, I'll drop some anvils."

"That's okay, Faith," Buffy said. "If he doesn't do it himself, he's not going to do it. I only hope that I won't have to lose him because of it. I don't ever want to lose him. He means everything to me."



*****



Giles wiped his hands on the towel as he headed to answer the knock at the door. His brows raised when he saw who it was. "Hello, Spike," he greeted. He stepped back to allow the vampire to enter, but Spike shook his head.

"I'm not here for a social visit, Watcher," Spike said. He handed Giles a large, sealed manila envelope with the word 'Watcher' scrawled across the front. "Hold onto this for me, eh? And don't bloody open it till I give you the go ahead. Got it?"

Giles looked at the envelope curiously. "I understand," he said, then raised his eyes to study Spike. "Are you certain you don't wish to come in? Buffy tells me that you're feeling better, but you look a bit peaked to me."

"I'm fine, Watcher," Spike told him. He gestured to the envelope. "Just do as I asked, okay?"

"Very well," Giles said. Spike nodded once, then left.

Giles closed the door and headed over to his desk. He set the manila envelope in the center of the surface, wondering why the simple object filled him with a sense of foreboding.



Part Two



"Twas the twenty-third of December and all through the apartment, not a creature was stirring, except Buffy trying to make Russian Tea Cakes and wrap presents at the same time," Buffy muttered to herself, wiping powdered sugar off on her cheek as she rolled another cookie through the white stuff.

The buzzer for the oven went off, and the blond Slayer wiped her hands off before putting on a oven mitt. She pulled out another tray of Snowball cookies for the party on Saturday night and set them on the stove, then stuck the fourth tray in the oven. Christmas music was playing on the stereo in the living room, dispelling the quiet. Spike had gone out, giving her a chance to wrap his Christmas gifts from her.

After setting the time for the next batch, Buffy rinsed her hands off in the kitchen sink, then went to wrap the next of Spike's gifts. Opening the bag on the floor next to one of the kitchen chairs, she pulled out a greenish colored box and set it on the chair. "'The world has got a smile today, the world has got a glow. There's no such thing as strangers, when a stranger says hello. And everyone is family, we're having so much fun. After all, there's only one more sleep till Christmas,'" she sang along with the music coming from the other room.

Carefully, she opened the box to check and make sure the figurine was still in as good of condition as it was at The Music Box. "I still can't believe they made something this perfect," Buffy commented to herself.

The figurine was part of the "Monsters Holiday" collection of glass figurines. The collection included a sleigh that was a coffin, with a family of Mummies riding in it, being pulled by reindeer skeletons; Frankenstein holding mistletoe above his head; and the Wolfman dressed as Santa Claus, eyeing a child on his lap hungrily.

Buffy's present to Spike was a frosted, glass snowman. It came complete with hat, coal eyes, carrot nose, and fangs. Even a little blood ran down from the corner of its mouth.

Gently, she set it back into the protective box, closed it back up, and wrapped it in the Sunday Comics they were using instead of wrapping paper. With a black magic marker, she printed Spike's name on the gift in big, block letters. Then she giggled. "Whoo, Buffy's getting high on smelly markers, bad girl."

Grinning to herself, Buffy picked up the gift and walked into the living room to add it to her previously wrapped boring ones, such as socks and shorts, beside their tiny tree. "'Tis the season to be jolly and joyous, fa la la...,'" she sang as she returned to the kitchen to continue wrapping and baking.



*****



Spike had to stop his car halfway to his destination as searing pain engulfed his body. His hands clenched on the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white as the bones pressed into the thin skin over them. He closed his eyes and grit his teeth tightly, trying not to scream.

"Not yet, not yet, not yet, not yet," he chanted to himself between his teeth. He wasn't finished with what needed to be done to take care of Buffy after he'd gone. He pulled on everything he could and fought back the pain.

After a few minutes, he was able to open his eyes and move the car forward again. He lifted a shaky hand and ran it through his short, peroxide hair. Small tremors shot through his body throughout the remainder of the ride to Joyce's house.

Parking on the street outside of the gaily decorated home, Spike took a deep, purposeful breath before grabbing the large duffle bag on the front seat beside him. Exiting the car, he made his way slowly to the front door and rang the bell. He put on a false "I'm perfectly fine" smile for Joyce, as his Slayer's mother opened the door.

"Spike, hi," Joyce greeted. She looked past him and asked, "Is Buffy with you?"

"No, it's only me," Spike replied, entered the house when she stepped back. He held up the black duffle. "Got a place I can stash this? It's for the Slayer."

"Of course," Joyce said. She went to take it from him, but he shook his head.

"I'd better carry it," Spike said. "It's pretty heavy."

"Would my bedroom be alright?" Joyce asked. "Faith's already snooped in there for her gifts, so she shouldn't be through there again before Saturday morning."

"That's fine," Spike answered. He gripped the handrailing tightly as he climbed the steps behind her, silently cursing his weakened knees from the episode in the car.

"Stick it on the far side of the bed, under the table," Joyce instructed. "Are you going to want Faith or me to bring it by on Saturday morning, or will you pick it up Friday night?"

"I'll get it Friday," Spike lied. He crouched down to put the bag where told and, at the same time, pulled a white envelope out of his duster pocket with Joyce's name written on it. He set it on top of the bag, then stood and headed back around the bed. "Thanks a bunch, Joyce."

"It's nothing," Joyce said. "Now, how would you like some hot chocolate? I don't think my piggy-new-daughter ate all the marshmallows."

"I'd like that," he said. "We haven't shared a cuppa in a long while." And it was probable that there wouldn't be a chance to ever do it again, Spike added silently, following her out of the bedroom and back down the stairs.



*****



"Hello, luv," Spike said quietly, wrapping his arms around Buffy from behind her, later that night when he got home. He placed a soft kiss on the side of her neck. "How'd the cookie baking go?"

"Good," Buffy answered, snuggling back into his embrace. She had been standing by the window, looking out into the brightly lit night, waiting for Spike to return. All the lights were off in the apartment, save for those on their little tree. She had turned down the volume on the Christmas music, and its soft tunes filled the air, making the atmosphere tender and intimate.

"I love you," Spike whispered in her ear, his arms tightening around her. "You know that, right?"

"Of course," Buffy said, turning her head to look up at him over her shoulder. She frowned at the pensive expression on his face. "What's wrong?"

Spike gave her a small smile. "Nothing, Slayer," he said. He nodded towards the window with his chin. "Do you have to patrol tonight?"

"No, Faith's got it," she replied. "And we have tomorrow night 'officially' off, so we can go to the Bronze party."

"Sounds good, pet," he said, his mouth lightly kissing up the side of her neck. "But that's tomorrow, I'm more interested in right now."

"Oh really?" Buffy said, turning in his arms. She wound hers up around his neck, a soft smile on her lips. "And what's happening right now?"

"I'm going to make love to you," Spike said quietly in reply, then bent his head and pressed his lips to hers.

I'll always remember, it was Christmas last year

The night was filled with laughter and good-cheer

It was on that night that you officially became mine

And the days have quickly passed, and once more it's Christmas time

Spike pulled Buffy down to the floor with him, the lights from the Christmas tree painting colors on their naked bodies. He kissed her deeply, his fingers caressing her bare flesh, touching her, bringing her pleasure. She mewled quietly under his touch, arching up into his hand, seeking him, seeking more.

I remember when we shared New Year's wine

I gave you more of my heart for Saint Valentine's

At Saint Patrick's Day, I counted on luck

That when Easter came, our love would have stuck

He moved over her, into her, not once breaking the kiss or allowing her to break it. The love he held for her he tried to show with each movement, with each sweep of his tongue against hers, with each tear that fell silently down his cheek, the salty taste mingling with the kiss. He could feel her heart beating under her breast, beating for the both of them.

But luck, I didn't need it, as the days flew by

Our love was still strong as fireworks lit the sky

I knew it wasn't a trick played on All Hallow's Eve

My love for you would always forever be

Finally, he raised his head to look down at her. Her fingers brushed the tears on his cheeks, the gentle touch causing him to have to choke back a sob. He quickly hid his face near her neck, and he felt her hands stroke the back of his hair. Shifting, his hand found her most sensitive spot and he brought her to a quiet climax, her whisper of his name making the small piece of her soul that she'd given him sing.

I gave thanks that you have returned my love

And as long as the stars shine brightly above

When you find your gift under the Christmas tree

Know it is with love for you, from me

And after he'd followed her into his own climax, she held his trembling body close to her, and replied with words to what he'd silently told her, her own voice choked up with emotion.

And when you find your gift under the Christmas tree

Remember my love for you will always forever be

"I love you, too, Spike. I love you, too."



Part Three



Spike glanced at the clock on the night-stand as he finished putting on his boots. "Slayer, what time does this thing start again?" he called.

"We're meeting everyone there at nine-thirty," Buffy called back to him from behind the closed master bath door. "Don't forget to bring money, because there's a cover charge."

"Will do, pet," Spike said. He stood and walked over to the dresser to get some money from the top drawer. Upon opening it, a small stack of photos in the front corner caught his eye.

Lifting up the first one, he smiled as the memory of all the trouble the picture he'd taken of Buffy laying in the snow next to their snow angels had caused. He didn't think he'd slept the entire time between when he'd taken the photo until he gave up and hauled her back to the old store he'd had as a home to shag her beautiful brains out. And then he'd gone and claimed her-

Spike inhaled sharply, the photo crinkling under his fingers, as what felt like a flaming needle slammed through his chest right into his heart. He squeezed his eyes shut, his lips pressed tight together to prevent to scream of agony from erupting. However, it was not one caused by the physical pain he was in, but one of pure emotion.

His time was up.

Forcefully opening his eyes, Spike made himself move. Picture still in hand, he went to the portable phone sitting on the night-stand and quickly punched in a number.

"Hello?"

"Watcher, open the envelope I gave you," Spike said into the phone, his voice clipped. He disconnected immediately, not giving Giles a chance to speak. He dropped the phone onto the bed before opening the night-stand and pulling out a sealed letter. Then he walked around the bed and over to the closed bathroom door. "Slayer?"

"Yes, dear?" Buffy's teasing voice came through the wood.

"I have to go out," Spike said. "I'll meet you at the Bronze."

"Okay," Buffy said. "It's better that way, anyhow, because then I can actually keep my dress on for longer than thirty seconds when you see me."

Spike laid his palm flat on the door, the photo held tightly in his other one. "I can't wait," he said. "Love you, Slayer."

"Love you back, vampire o'mine," Buffy called to him through the door. "See you later."

"Goodbye, Buffy," Spike whispered, his hand running lightly down the wood. Then he let it drop to his side, turned and left, stopping only to put the envelope on the kitchen table.



*****



Giles stared at the envelope sitting in the center of his desk as he hung up the phone as if it would bite him. Dread filled him as he slit the top of the manila envelope open. The clatter of the letter opener he dropped back on the desk made him jump. He took a short breath, swallowed, and pulled the contents out.

A sealed, letter-sized envelope addressed to Angel was on top of the pile. Giles set it aside and focused on a handwritten note that was next.



Watcher~

Make sure that these are carried out so that the Slayer's taken care of. Try to do the spell right away, I don't want her to be alone. And give the letter Angel, so he knows what I need for him to do.

Spike



Giles set the note down and looked at the next paper. Ten seconds later, he was speaking into the phone again.

"Angel, this is Rupert. You need to come to Sunnydale. It's an emergency..."



*****



Joyce pulled a gift out from under her bed and accidentally kicked the duffle bag underneath the table behind her. Something hit the back of her ankle, and she turned to see an envelope addressed to her sitting on the carpeting beside her foot. With a puzzled frown, she picked up the letter and opened it.

"'Dear Joyce,'" she read quietly to herself. "'In the bag you'll find all the money I have. Please use it to take care of the Slayer until she's able to do so on her own, then give the rest to her. I know you don't like my Sire, but give him a chance. He'll protect her and love her almost as much as I do. Thanks for letting me be a part of your family, even though it was for too short of a time. Spike.'"

Joyce was confused by the letter. She set it down and turned to unzip the duffle bag. She gasped softly at the piles of banded bills she found inside. Rising quickly, she picked up the phone and dialed her daughter's phone number. When she didn't get an answer, she tried Giles.

"Spike?"

"No, it's Joyce," Joyce said into the phone. "But funny you should say his name, because I just got a strange note from him, along with a bag full of money I'm suppose to use for Buffy. Is there something wrong?"

"I think perhaps you'd best sit down," Giles said over the line. "If what I understand is true, the news is rather distressing...."



*****



Spike had made it to the cemetery where he'd first met up with Buffy again when the pain became too unbearable. He fell to his knees in the dead grass, his arms wrapped around his stomach, and he touched his forehead to the ground. Tears of grief and pain flowed freely, and his body shook with his crying.

"I don't want to go." His voice was harsh and his words barely discernable through his tears. "I don't want to leave 'er. Please let me stay. Please let me stay. Please let me. Please let me. Please let me."

A tremor wracked his body and the picture that was still in his hand fell to the ground. He sucked in air through his fangs, then sat back on his heels to scream out ferally to the night sky, bringing the world around him to a shuddering halt. Silence descended over everything, and the earth itself held its breath as it waited.

A plain, gold band landed on the grass with a soft thump.

A single raindrop fell from the sky, striking a photograph of a girl and two snow angels.

The world moved on.



*****





Buffy tapped her finger on the table in time with the music, looking between the door and her friends out on the dance floor. She glanced at the slim, gold watch around her wrist and silently cursed her husband. "Spike, you are so going to get it," she muttered to herself.

The song ended and Willow, Oz, Xander and Cordelia returned to the table. Buffy gave them all a false-happy smile as they sat down. She shifted on her seat, smoothing down the fitted, ankle-length, red, strapless dress she wore. The diamonds on her anklet caught the Bronze's lights, sending up a small rainbow of colors.

"Not here yet?" Cordelia asked.

"No," Buffy said. "He'd better be out getting me a really big present or something, or he's dust."

"Maybe he had car trouble," Willow suggested. "Or he forgot he was meeting you here."

"I tried calling already, no answer," Buffy said. "And his car was in the parking lot in our spot, so wherever he went, he walked."

"Well, there you go," Willow said. "He walked to wherever he went, then walked back to the apartment and is probably arriving in the car right now."

Five pairs of eyes all looked to the door. After a minute, Xander said, "Or he could have been kidnapped by space aliens dressed as elves and wielding candy-cane-shaped lasers."

"Don't forget about the rabid reindeer," Oz added.

"Don't encourage him," Cordelia told the werewolf. "Buffy, I'm sure he's just late like Xander always is."

"Yeah," Willow said. "And if there was trouble, wouldn't you get paged?"

"Forgot my pager," Buffy said. "But Faith has hers...I think." The blond Slayer looked around for the brunette. "If I find her in this mob, I'll ask her. But in the meantime, I'll just sit here and alternate between watching the door, looking at my watch, and thinking of ways to hurt him."

"As long as you're entertained," Xander said. A slow song started and he held out his arm to Cordelia.

Cordelia took his arm. "Let me know if you want a ride, Buffy," she said before following her boyfriend out onto the floor.

"Is there anything we can do?" Willow asked Buffy.

"No, you guys go dance," Buffy said. "I'm fine."

"You sure? We can sit-"

"Go dance," Buffy told her. "That's an order."

Willow gave her a smile and went with Oz out onto the dance floor. Buffy sighed and glanced at her watch again. Then she began tapping her finger in time to the music once more.



*****



"Excuse me," Angel said in a tight voice to Joyce and Giles, who were both sitting in the Watcher's living room. He clutched the opened letter in his hand and made his way outside into the stone garden, shutting the door behind him. He looked up into the moonlit sky, blinking rapidly at the tears that had come to his eyes.

In his mind, the words of the letter written in Spike's sharp, angular script played over and over again.

I hate you, but I love the Slayer more. Claim her. Protect her. Love her. Make her your mate. The Watcher has a spell to get rid of the curse problem. Don't let me down, Angel. For her sake.

"Why didn't you say something, Spike?" Angel asked the night sky. "Why didn't you tell us? We could have done something..."



*****



Buffy let herself into the apartment after being dropped off by Cordelia a little over two hours after the Bronze party started. "Spike?" she called as she shut the door behind her. "Are you here?"

When she didn't get any answer, she frowned. The lights were just as she left them, and she saw no evidence that he'd been there since she'd gone to the party. "Spike? Did you get sick or something?" she asked loudly, heading back towards the bedroom. She tossed her purse on the empty bed and checked in the bathroom.

Shaking her head, Buffy walked back down the hall to the kitchen, hitting the lights on the way. She found an envelope with 'Slayer' written across the front of it sitting on the table, propped up against a tin of Snowball cookies. She picked it up and opened it, unfolding a single sheet of yellow legal paper with printed handwriting on it which she recognized as Spike's.

Slayer~

I really don't know what to write to you. I've been sitting here for hours, staring at this bloody piece of paper, wishing that I didn't have to write anything. However, the soddin garlic eating away at my body says otherwise.

But how do I say goodbye to you? You're my everything. My wife, my mate, my soul. Did you know I was going to give up killing humans for you for Christmas? I couldn't stand seeing that look in your eyes each time I went out to hunt, even though you never said a word. It doesn't matter now, though.

I hope that I get to spend Christmas with you. At least then I'd get to love you for a full year before I had to leave you. But if I didn't, I'd better tell you what your gift is from me. Hate to have you thinking I didn't get you anything comparable to your anklet.

Anyway, I got you Angel's soul. Giles has the spell. Angel's going to take care of you now, Slayer. I asked him to come back to Sunnydale and claim you. I want you to live for a long time, and I know that you loved him once and will love him again.

I guess this is a pretty decent goodbye. Know that I'll try and watch over you from wherever I end up. I love you, Buffy. Try not to get too mad at me for not telling you I was dying. I wanted to spend my last days with you in happiness, rather than in tears.

Love,

Spike



Buffy slowly set the letter down on the kitchen table. She licked her lips and rubbed them together, her eyes staring blankly ahead of her. Her throat became dry and tight as she walked out of the kitchen. She managed to make it into the living room before her heart felt as though someone were crushing it.

"Oh god, no," Buffy breathed, sinking to her knees. She covered her face with her hands as the first tears came. Her body began to shake with her cries, and she rocked forward and back, her voice becoming louder and more high-pitched as she repeated over and over, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, No, No, No, No, No, No, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO..."

Outside of her window, the church bells rang twelve.

It was Christmas once again.

And the Slayer wept.





Epilogue





"Who's this Aunt Buffy?"

Buffy crouched down beside Willow's daughter on the floor of her family room. "Who's who, Kayla?"

"Him," Kayla Osborne said, pointing to a picture in the photo album she was looking through.

A sweet pang hit the thirty-nine year old Slayer's heart. "That was my first husband, Spike," Buffy told her.

"You were married before?" Linda Harris said, with a questioning lift of a brow. "Don't you know how passe divorce is?"

Buffy smiled sadly. "We didn't get divorced. He died."

"Good going, sis," Mike Harris said, smacking his older sister on the arm.

"How was I suppose to know?" Linda said defensively.

"Don't worry, he died a long time ago," Buffy said, stopping the fight between the two Harris children before it got going.

"And you're married to Uncle Angel," Kayla said.

"Yes, and I'm married to Uncle Angel," Buffy repeated, cupping the side of Kayla's face tenderly.

"What was he like?" Karen Osborne asked shyly from beside her twin sister.

"Spike?" Buffy said. "Well, he was...different."

~~~

"Oh, come on, you pillock. Move," Spike said, pushing the heavy mound of snow onto another one. Grunting in accomplishment, he bent again to create the final portion.

~~~

"How was he different?" Mike asked. "Was he a vampire, like Uncle Angel?"

"Yes, he was a vampire, too," Buffy said. "But he and your Uncle Angel were nothing alike."

~~~

With an actual giggle, Spike headed casually for the fight in the center of the room, cracking his knuckles. "Hello, cutie," he called out, his voice echoing over the fight. "Miss me?"

~~~

"You must have been like twelve when you got married," Linda commented, looking over Kayla's shoulder at the photo album.

"No, I was eighteen," Buffy told her.

"Was it a big ceremony?" Linda asked.

"Actually, it was in a hospital room..."

~~~

"No one offers a dare that I can't meet," Spike replied, giving Buffy another wink...

~~~

"Did you love him?" Karen asked softly.

Buffy smiled tenderly, looking down at the picture in the album. "Yes, I loved him very much. He was my mate and I was his."

~~~

"You. Are. Mine," Spike growled, each word punctuated with the hit of his pelvis against hers, as he thrust furiously. "My. Woman. My. Wife. My. Slayer. My. Mate. You. Are. Mine."

~~~

"Alright, everyone, dessert's on the table," Angel said, coming into the family room. He dodged out of the way as Mike ran past him, then shared an amused grin with Linda as she walked by.

Kayla gave the photo album to Buffy, stood and took Karen's hand. "Thank you, Aunt Buffy," she said, then led her sister out of the room.

Rising, Buffy smiled at Angel. "Remind me again why we have Christmas here every year?"

"Because you love it," Angel replied. He walked over to her side and pressed a soft kiss on her brow, then glanced down at the album in her hand. "Good memories?"

"The best," Buffy said. "I still miss him, you know."

"I know," Angel said. He gave her another kiss, then headed back out of the family room.

Buffy looked down at the photograph of Spike and her eyes misted slightly.

~~~

"I love you," Spike whispered in her ear, his arms tightening around her. "You know that, right?"

~~~

"I know, Spike," Buffy whispered. "And I loved you, too. So very much."

Taking a short breath, she closed the photo album and put it back where it belonged. Then she wiped her eyes and left the family room to rejoin her mate and friends for dessert.

And outside, it began to snow.



End