Things That Go Bump in the Night by Slaymesoftly

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Set several years post NFA, Buffy has moved on, is no longer in mourning for her two dead vampires. Then Dawn calls her for some help and she finds something she never expected to.

Text + | -


Chapter 28

Christmas Day dawned cold and sunny, and Buffy blinked at the brightness as she made her way up from her cozy bedroom. Moving into the kitchen, she started a pot of coffee and put the kettle on for tea. Dawn and Teddy had insisted they would be by bright and early Christmas morning, saying cryptically, “We have a stop to make first, but then we’ll be there right away.”

True to their word, they knocked on the still-locked front door before Buffy had even gotten dressed. Still wearing her fuzzy slippers and a warm bathrobe, she let them in, yawning as she eyed the big box that Dawn was carrying.

“Does this have anything to do why I had to get up so early?” she asked, almost dropping it when it seemed to shift in her hands. “Should I put it under the tree or open it now?”

“Oh, you need to open it now. Under the tree isn’t going to work for long,” Dawn laughed.

Buffy shrugged; she set the box down and lifted off the gaily-wrapped lid. A pair of tiny, dark ears emerged, followed by the bluest eyes Buffy had ever seen. The button nose and whiskers that followed, and the plaintive “meow?” were unnecessary. Buffy was in love already. She carefully lifted the Siamese kitten from the box and held her to her face.

“Aren’t you just the most beautiful thing in the world?” she cooed, smiling broadly when the kitten licked her nose and began to purr vigorously. She looked up with shining eyes.

“Thank you. I love her…him?”

“It’s a ‘her’. Her stuff is outside the front door.”

“Stuff?”

“Yes, you know, food, bowls, toys – litter box. That kind of stuff.”

Still holding the kitten, Buffy walked over and hugged first Dawn and then Teddy.

“Thank you, guys,” she repeated.

“You’re welcome. We just thought you needed some company in this big house. Plus, the breeder said her mom was a good mouser.”

“Always a plus,” Buffy nodded, thinking about the mice that continued to find their way into the old house no matter what she did, or how many holes she stuffed. They hadn’t been a problem when Spike was around, his vampire senses allowing him to find them immediately and either kill them or throw them out into the garden. Either way, they’d rarely come back. However, with the advent of cold weather and the lack of a predator in the house, it had become clear that there was a large “vacancy” sign on the kitchen door.

For the rest of the day, she interrupted her dinner preparations every few minutes to coo over the kitten and make sure she was enjoying exploring the big house. Willow, of course, was enchanted and promptly wanted to name her “Kitty Fantastico II”, pouting when she was voted down and Buffy settled on “Noelle”. By the time the guests began arriving, the kitten was looking a bit worried about all the noise and feet she had to avoid, so Buffy carried her downstairs where she’d set up the litter box, food bowl and a cat bed on the floor right beside her own bed.

“Here you go, Noelle. Nice and quiet, with a comfy bed. I’ll come check on you later, ‘k?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dinner was everything she’d hoped it would be. With the help of Willow, Dawn and later, Emily, Buffy had been able to fill the table with a selection of traditional American and English holiday foods; and she watched with a warm glow as her friends and family filled their plates and ate until they all said they were too full to move. She smiled at Giles -- seated at the far end of the table in what would have been Spike’s place -- and got a warm smile in return. His eyes told her that he was very aware of the honor she’d bestowed when she asked him to sit at the head of the table and carve. They shared a rare moment of understanding before everyone began rising to their feet and carrying their empty plates to the kitchen.

When Buffy finally left the kitchen, having chased her would-be helpers out and leaving the dishes in the sink to soak, she found everyone lolling around the living room, semi-comatose from their meal.

“Hey! What is this? It’s prezzie opening time. Wake up, everybody!”

Xander groaned and raised his hand. “Can we do that later? Like, tomorrow, maybe? I can’t move.”

“Well, that’s a damn shame.”

He sat up suddenly, spilling his drink in his lap as he did so. Grinning at him from across the room was Faith, still holding her suitcase and wearing her coat.

“Oh,” Buffy said innocently. “Did I forget to mention that Faith was going to be here… but just a little late?”

“Very funny,” Xander muttered, standing up and mopping at his pants. Faith crooked her finger at him and said, “Come on, klutz. You can show me to my room and we’ll get you out of those wet pants.”

“She didn’t mean that the way it sounds,” Xander said, blushing under his tan.

“The hell I didn’t! Get your ass over here, Harris.”

Wearing a grin that he couldn’t hide, Xander followed Faith into the hallway. They paused for a quick kiss and grope, and then he pulled her towards the stairs.

“Well,” Dawn said into the silence, “I guess that’s the last we’ll see of them for awhile.”

Giles cleared his throat and tried to bring the conversation back to the original subject. “I believe it is traditional when one has gifts under a tree, to open them while it’s still Christmas Day. Dawn? Will you begin?”


While Giles and Dawn supervised the distribution of gifts, Buffy went downstairs and brought a still sleepy Noelle up to be admired. After everyone had cooed over the kitten’s cuteness, Buffy retreated to the doorway with her. She was standing, one shoulder against the doorjamb -- the kitten snoozing on her chest -- enjoying the warm atmosphere pervading the room full of laughing, happy people when she thought she felt a familiar presence. Lulled into a state of euphoria by the atmosphere in the room, she forgot, for just a brief second, that Spike was no longer around. She could almost hear him leaning down to whisper in her ear, “Well done, pet. You’ve made our house a home. Happy Christmas, my love.”

Unthinking, she leaned back against the hard chest she expected to find behind her -- to be startled out of her daydream by the sudden lack of support. Only her slayer reactions prevented an embarrassing fall as she stumbled backwards, a low moan of realization escaping her throat.

“What is it?” Willow was by her side almost immediately, Emily right behind her.

Buffy looked at them with wide eyes. “He was here, Will. I would swear it. I know I didn’t imagine…”

The two witches closed their eyes and concentrated, snapping them open after a few seconds. They exchanged glances, Willow saying gently, “Something was here, Buffy. But it felt nothing like Spike’s ghost, and it’s gone now. If we’d been a few seconds later, even that small trace would have been unreadable.”

Emily nodded in quiet agreement. “There was definitely a spirit here, but very briefly. A passing soul, perhaps attracted by the lights and all the happy auras in the room, but on its way to somewhere else.”

“It was him,” Buffy said stubbornly. “He told me ‘Happy Christmas’ and said that I’d made our house into a…a…home.”

Her vow to get through the holiday without crying was in serious jeopardy when the kitten distracted her by complaining about the rude awakening. Emily used the opportunity to point out that the kitten had had a pretty exhausting day for a baby, and perhaps would be happier back in her bedroom with her litter box and some food. Grateful for something to do, Buffy nodded and returned the kitten to the bedroom. She set her down in front of the food and went back to her guests, closing the door tightly behind her.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur of gifts, cookies, eggnog, hugs and Christmas wishes. Willow’s whisper that she wouldn’t be using her room because she was going back to the Council complex with Emily made Buffy smile, even as she debated offering the room to Riley. However, the look on his face when he prepared to say “goodnight” squelched that idea before it was truly born.

As he kissed her cheek and wished her a Merry Christmas, he said that he’d like to come to see her the next time he was in London. She answered as noncommittally as she possibly could without being rude. It was pretty obvious that Riley thought they could begin dating again, and Buffy really didn’t want to have that conversation with him on Christmas Day. She waved ‘goodnight’ hoping that Teddy would fill him in on why she wasn’t dating yet, knowing that it wouldn’t take much for Riley to figure out who the ghostly vampire had been.

When the house was once again empty, except for Xander and Faith who had, as predicted, not made another appearance downstairs, Buffy carefully blew out the candles, turned off the lights and prepared to go down to her own bed in the basement. She paused at the edge of the room to admire the still lit tree – now emitting the only light in the house.

“Merry Christmas, Spike,” she whispered before leaving the room and joining her new housemate, now curled up in the middle of the bed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

January passed slowly, too cold and damp for hiking at night. Even the few vampires and demons in the area seemed to have left for warmer places. Had it not been for her new job, Buffy would have been bored to the point of distraction. However, the occasional two or three day trip to warmer climates to work with whatever slayers might be in need of her assistance or support went a long way toward keeping her sane. And it also allowed her to reconnect with girls she’d taught or worked with in other places. She gradually began to feel like she had people in her life again.

Giles agreed to allow Dawn to borrow his car when Buffy was out of town so she could make daily visits to ensure that Noelle had plenty of food, water and a clean litter box. She’d really not been able to argue when Buffy pointed out that the kitten had been Dawn’s idea, and therefore, Dawn was obligated to help care for her.

“Is it Spring, yet?” Buffy peered out the window at the cold February rain and laughed at Noelle when she stopped at the edge of the front porch, gave the wet steps a disgusted look, and marched back to meow to come back in.

“It’s nasty out there, isn’t it, Noey, baby? Too bad you couldn’t have come to Panama with me. But those demons probably would have wanted to turn you into a snack. You’re safer here.”

Noelle wound around Buffy’s legs and purred her delight at having her person home for a few days. She followed her around the house like a dog, meowing off and on as though carrying on a conversation. Buffy insisted to anyone who would listen that Noelle could say “out”, “hello” and “goodnight”.

“We know you can talk,” Buffy said, picking her up and carrying her to the kitchen. “Who cares if anyone believes me?” She set the rapidly growing kitten down in front of a cupboard and said sternly, “Now, I know I heard something in here last night. So, when I open the door, you go get it. Okay? You’re a slayer’s cat – time to start slaying.”

She opened the door and smiled when the kitten pounced in immediately, to emerge a few seconds later proudly carrying a dead…cracker. Buffy sighed.

“Okay. It needs a little work. But you’ll get it. I’ve got faith in you.”

Noelle began to bat her prize around the floor, perfectly content to have slain the cracker and allowed the mouse to get away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


February’s cold damp eased into March with its cold winds, but occasional warm sunny hints of spring. When she was home, Buffy began haunting the garden center, already planning which flowers she would put where as soon as the horticulturist told her it would be safe to do so. She was delighted to see, in addition to the crocus and snowdrops that had appeared earlier, that many of the old beds contained daffodils and what she suspected were tulips just poking their heads out of the warming ground. Visions of beds full of spring and summer blooms filled her days, while memories of working side by side with Spike to bring the garden back to life haunted her nights.

As she’d promised Willow, she let the tears flow where and when they would – only refusing to cry in front of the other slayers. As the days became longer and warmer, and the sun made appearances in the east-facing windows of the house, Buffy contemplated moving upstairs into the unused master bedroom. She knew she would never change the basement bedroom, but there was a growing appeal to having windows and light in her room. She began experimenting with the idea, sleeping one or two nights a week in the large, airy room.

“You don’t think he’d mind, do you?” Noelle cocked her head and listened, meowing supportively whenever Buffy’s voice contained a question. “He offered to move up here before he…” The steadily less frequent tears welled up and she indulged herself in a few minutes of quiet sniffling into the pillow, smiling through her tears when Noelle began licking her face sympathetically.

“Who knew I’d become a cat lady,” Buffy laughed, hugging the kitten until she squirmed. “I can just see me twenty years from now – the old spinster teacher and her house full of cats. Talk about not getting any respect from the slayer students…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s not fair!”

Buffy paused outside the door of the gym. She hadn’t really intended to eavesdrop, she just didn’t want to interrupt whatever conversation might be going on inside. While the other slayers all respected her and were polite, she’d made very few friends among the students and other instructors, preferring to spend her time with some of the witches and younger watchers. She’d found it could be helpful sometimes to hear her students talk when they didn’t know she was listening, picking up on things that were and were not working in her teaching techniques. So, she paused, and waited to find out what wasn’t fair.

“Until she came, we all had the same shot at the ghost. I think I could have beat him. Now I’ll never know, and it’s her fault.”

“You so could not have beaten him! Did you see them when they were sparring? If I ever see a vamp that fast, I’m running away.”

“I could so have. He liked me. I could tell. He probably would have let me win if I’d rubbed my boobs on him.”

No longer interested in what else the girl had to say, Buffy made some noise to alert them that she was arriving, then burst through the doors.

“Okay! Are we all ready for today’s lesson? I’m going to start with a good practice fight – who wants to pretend I’m an old, wily vamp? You? Debbie, why don’t you come and show us how it’s done?”

The unfortunate Debbie, too proud to let on how so very much she did not want to fight the woman she’d been blaming for her lack of access to Spike, gave a sickly grin and did her best to swagger up to the center of the room where Buffy was calmly taking off her shoes.

“Are you sure you don’t want to leave those on? You might need them.” Debbie’s attempt at bravado fell flat, as the other slayers gasped.

“No,” Buffy said quietly, standing up and facing the other slayer, her face impassive. “I won’t.”

Instead of taking off her own shoes, Debbie swung a kick at Buffy’s head, hoping the element of surprise would allow her to get in one good blow. Her face fell when Buffy easily slipped the intended kick and grabbed Debbie’s foot as it went past her face. As though instructing the class, Buffy calmly twisted the shoe-clad foot, dropping the shocked girl to the floor as she said, “Now, that’s the danger of those high kicks. When they work, it’s great; but when they don’t, for instance when you’re throwing one at an opponent you’ve never faced before and who turns out to be faster than you are...” She released Debbie’s foot and stretched out a hand to help her up. “They can backfire,” she finished, pulling the other girl close enough to whisper in her ear.

“Spike would have had you for lunch,” she hissed. “And he was never one to be distracted by having a pair of tits pushed in his face. Don’t ever think you can count on distracting a vamp with your body. Is that clear?”

As she finished speaking, she shoved the other slayer hard enough to send her tumbling back onto the floor, her face a mixture of embarrassment and anger. Snickering from the other girls in the room did nothing to make her feel better about what had just happened, and Buffy made a mental note that she might have just made an enemy.

“Stupid bitch,” she muttered to herself as she put her shoes back on. “I think I’ll tell Giles she should be sent to Cleveland. Let Faith take her down a peg or two. Or maybe send her to Brazil…she and Kennedy would get along great. Until they killed each other, anyway.”

Sighing for the downside of being mature and responsible, Buffy admitted to herself that she was probably going to have to find a way to make up for publicly humiliating the other girl – rather than having her sent off to someplace unpleasant. She turned with a forced smile and faced the class.

“Okay, then. Let’s go over some other ways to initiate the fight. Something that might not be so easily countered. ‘k?”

PreviousNext


Submit a Review!

:

:

: