Spoilers: Set post “Not Fade Away” and not comic book related. I’ve only read season 9 and two volumes of season 10. (I skipped season 8.)
A/N: Written especially for Gabrielle, Thia, Rhonda, and my brother, John, with special thanks to Jennifer for help with the Christmas song.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yuletide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.
“Merry Christmas Eve to me.”
I roll my suitcase in the door to the cabin Giles rented for me and stomp my feet to get the snow off my boots. Pulling off one glove, I slam the door against the cold and blindly search for something resembling a light switch. Soft light from three small lamps around the small living room pours forth, and I take in the old but cozy-looking oversized grey sofa and a fireplace with a dark mantel made of large stones.
I hang my heavy jacket on the coat rack, stuff both gloves into one pocket, tug off my boots, and hurry to the thermostat on socked feet, turning the heat to max.
I pull my cell phone out of my purse and check the signal. Absolutely nothing. Now I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere outside of Denver, Colorado at Christmas with no way to contact anyone that I care about. Luckily, I texted Dawn at the airport tonight and let her know that I safely landed.
Because the North American Slayer team is focused on an apocalypse at the Cleveland hellmouth and because I was in Texas on the way back to Rome with some book of magic that Giles needed in order to deal with the Immortal situation, I got stuck flying to Colorado to find another Slayer we just found out about. Apparently, she lives in the middle of nowhere.
A kitchenette is tucked in the right corner of the living room. I open the fridge and find that Giles or someone called ahead and somehow got it stocked with a few of my favorites, including what looks like a lidded glass container full of chicken noodle soup, six precious cans of Tab, a carton of milk, and more containers full of other foodstuff that I plan to explore later.
I grab the soup and a can of Tab and begin heating half the soup in a pot on one of the gas burners as I sip the soda. The heavenly smell of chicken broth soon fills the cabin, and when the liquid is almost bubbling, I fix myself a bowl, take my drink, and settle onto the surprisingly comfortable sofa. Then, I find myself alone with my thoughts as I sip the soup.
Buffy alone with her thoughts is not always a good idea.
As usual, when I let myself slow down long enough, I think about how scattered around the world my friends are.
Willow is in Australia, working with some witches to prevent a magical influx from overtaking Perth. Xander is in North Carolina visiting his parents for Christmas before he heads back to South Africa in the New Year. Dawn is safely ensconced in Rome with Giles who is making sure the Immortal stays in check.
I really want us to all be together at some point, but I’m having trouble imagining that happening for at least another six months or longer. I miss how close we all were in Sunnydale even if there was a crisis of some supernatural variety seemingly every other week.
Being alone at Christmas time and stuck in a snowy nowhere town also lends itself to nostalgia of the boyfriend variety.
I know where Angel is. He’s in L.A., picking up the pieces after the Black Thorn situation and the subsequent supernatural battle. The California slayers are still talking about their part in the fray ad nauseam whenever I see them for training conferences or confer with them during phone consultations. Riley’s somewhere out there loving his demon-hunting job, his wife, and probably his 1.5 perfect kids. . . though I’m not sure what place kids would have in his line of work. With my two exes, at least I know where we stand. Having closure conversations with them really helped even if the closure wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be.
That leaves Spike.
Nope, no closure there.
I’ve known he’s back for a few months now, but he hasn’t tried to contact me. Not once. Granted, I haven’t tried to reach out either, but Andrew said he didn’t want to see me, so I respected that boundary.
But emotionally, it really hurts, especially in moments of quiet. . . when I’m not completely busy with slayer duties and raising my sister. Spike and I built something in Sunnydale, and I really wish we had. . . .
I blink back tears.
I refuse to be weepy Buffy on Christmas Eve.
Stowing my half full bowl of soup back in the refrigerator and taking one last sip of soda, I make a decision.
Rolling my bag into the tiny bedroom at the back of the cabin, I heft it onto the trunk at the base of the full sized bed and open it. Pulling out my bag of patrolling supplies, I smile. There may not be crowded city streets around here, but there are enough people back in the small town for there to be a graveyard. . . a rather large graveyard that I spied on my drive in, tombstones poking out of the powdery snow. If there’s a slayer here, there’s bound to be a vampire or two as well.
But first, I also bring out the foot-tall fake Christmas tree that I bought in the crowded Denver airport. The branches are a bit mashed, but I take a few seconds to push them back into place. The tree has a small string of lights attached to it along with a small gold star and tiny permanently fixed ornaments. I plug in the tree by the bed and set up my bit of Christmas cheer on the wooden night stand. Blue, green, yellow, and red glowing dots pinprick the ceiling and walls.
I smile again but broader this time.
It’s not a big Christmas tree like Mom, Dawn, and I used to decorate, but it’ll do.
I unplug it again to prevent the cabin from burning down. My luck, the light strand would short out and burn the cabin down while I was out patrolling and then where would I be?
Snagging my bag of slaying goodies, I head to the cabin door and re-dress in my winter gear, this time putting up the hood on my coat. I loop the bag handle over one prong of the coat rack and pull out two stakes, tucking one in my boot and another up my sleeve.
Yanking open the door, a gust of wind sweeps icy cold snowflakes into my adopted sanctuary. I peer up at the dark sky. Looks like I need a flashlight. I pull out the one I brought with me and flick it on before plunging into the night.
* * *
Okay, so tramping through a snowy winter night to get to a graveyard to maybe get in some patrolling. . . not the greatest idea I’ve ever had.
I’m freezing, and I can’t feel my feet anymore. . . or my nose. Luckily, my fingers are warm because I’m keeping one hand in a pocket, switching out which one holds the flashlight.
California was *so* not like this, and I have new respect for Faith’s work in Cleveland. The only time it snowed in Sunnydale was when Angel almost. . . .
I shake my head. The whole point of going out was to *forget* about boyfriends past.
Now I need to focus on surviving this weather and any vampires I might come across.
The metal gate to the cemetery hangs crookedly off its hinges, and I move it slowly to prevent squeaking. The snow has stopped falling for now, and the moonlight from the full moon is peeking through the snow clouds and the trees, illuminating the blanket of snow piled in dunes over all the graves. Somehow, there’s a peace and beauty to the untouched scene before me.
Only problem is. . . how am I going to find fresh graves with all the white stuff everywhere?
And the ground is probably frozen. How do vamps crawl out of graves when the ground’s frozen? Do they even bury people when it’s winter like this? The other problem with doing most of my slayer time in southern California and Rome is that I don’t have a clue about the answers to these questions.
My boots make quiet clumping sounds in the built up snow, and I’m grateful that Dawn talked me into packing this particular pair as well as the coat and gloves. She said one can never be too prepared. Guess she was right. After all, we do travel all over the world.
I slip the more convenient stake into my hand and sweep the flashlight around, searching for who knows what sign of preternatural disturbance in the frozen wonderland.
I’m somewhere in the middle of my hunt when I almost stumble over a smaller headstone that’s completely hidden by the snow drifts. Catching myself on the waist high neighboring memorial, I feel a familiar tingle in the back of my neck. . . the tingle I only feel around vampires.
Yahtzee. Vampires: do not pass go. Hooray!
Hey, I don’t care that my giddiness makes no sense.
I whirl and catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye. The shadowy figure darts into the shadows of a thicker grouping of trees.
Turning off my flashlight and gripping the stake, I focus my senses as Giles taught me long ago and locate the vamp crouching in an almost imperceptible space between the trunk of one of the older trees and a large but crumbling angel statue.
I pretend to head toward the foliage just slightly to the left of the vampire, but at the last moment, I lunge at my target.
My movement is a bit awkward in the snow, and my footing is off, so the vampire lands a kick to my chest, sending me flying back. I slip a little but regain my equilibrium in time to block another hit, grab the offender’s arm, and send him reeling to the side.
He crashes into a tombstone, bending double, and as I seize him to fling his body back and stake him, he growls and spins, grabbing me by the hood and slamming me against a tree trunk. My hood falls back with the motion of my head, and my skull thumps into the bark.
Moonlight shines in my face, but my attacker’s features remain cloaked in darkness.
Barely fazed, I hold onto his arms like a gymnast on the rings and bring my legs up to push him away but then. . .
The British accent is so recognizable that my heart skips a beat. I let my legs fall to the ground as he loosens his grip on my coat and steps away from me like I’m some sort of hot potato or burning object. Hurt flashes through me.
“What are you doing here?” he asks, his tone jolting me back to times of old when he was a reluctant sidekick thanks to the government chip in his head.
“I could ask you the same thing!” I can’t help the anger creeping into my voice. I adjust my hood back into place. If he’s going to stay in the dark where I can’t see him, I will, too.
In surprise, he answers with honesty, “I’m here to look up the local slayer. . . Name’s Gabrielle or something.”
“What? Why?” I’m genuinely confused and maybe. . . jealous. How is it possible that in the space of two seconds, Spike can make me feel a whole kaleidoscope full of emotions?
He sighs. “Because I was sent by the slayer crew in L.A. since they’re busy with whatever’s going on in Cleveland.” He raises his hand and waves it around. “You know, the quarterly apocalypse. Surprised you aren’t there.”
I can’t help myself, “Do you wish I was?”
He’s immediately defensive. “No, I don’t. What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What do you think it means?” I cross my arms, my stake poking into my bicep.
He’s silent for a few seconds, almost like he’s trying to stop our burgeoning argument before we slip further into the familiar dance between us. “Let me guess. You’re here for the same reason.”
His change in direction gives me pause. “Maybe. Giles sent me last minute.” Well, Willow tried to contact me, but I was in Texas, so she left the message with Dawn who told Giles. So much for communication among the troops. That’ll need definite improvement in the upcoming year.
“Rupert. Well, we didn’t get any calls from him. Heard about the slayer from. . . you know what? I don’t know where Andrew and Thia heard about this girl.”
Thia is the lead slayer in L.A., and she’s generally pretty organized. Somehow, I’m not surprised that Spike is working with them. Andrew said Spike wasn’t too keen on the whole Wolfram and Hart situation. I guess he had to land somewhere after the massive demon fight. I’m a little annoyed that Andrew didn’t tell me about Spike’s new role. He’s usually more than happy to lord information over the rest of us. . . and to over share.
My arms relax. “Well, whatever happened, here we are.”
“Here we are,” he agrees.
I suddenly feel sort of self-conscious. “Merry Christmas to us. . . in this graveyard.”
“Frozen, bloody cold graveyard.” Amusement tinges his tone.
“What do vampires do when it snows like this?”
“Apparently, the same things as slayers.” He heads toward the entrance to the cemetery, and I follow him, noting that he is wearing a heavier jacket than his usual duster.
“They stay indoors.”
I laugh. “Right.”
“Fancy crashing the local bar to ask for info?” He glances at me, but I can’t see his eyes.
Do I want to do that? “Sure. Why not? It’s not like I have anywhere else to be. Plus, walking. . . moving in general is of the good. I’m freezing. There’s a bar?” Leave it to Spike to notice the bar.
“Yeah. Got twinkly lights on it and everything. It’s where I left the car ‘bout half a mile away.”
“Think it’s a demon bar? With vampires?”
He snorts. “I doubt a town this size has its own Willy’s.”
He holds the cemetery gate open, and I breeze past him without touching him. I wish I had known who he was during our brief skirmish; I would have appreciated the touch more. “Can’t believe it’s open on Christmas Eve.”
He falls in step beside me, keeping pace with my speed walking. I have to attempt to get warm. . . or rather, warmer. “Trust me. In a town this size? The bar will be open come hell or high. . .”
“Snow?” I turn on the flashlight again.
After a few minutes of more companionable, less uncomfortable silence, I brave up and ask, “So how are you?”
Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he doesn’t answer for a few minutes. “I’m good. Busy. It’s not easy keeping up with a passel of birds. . . all that slayer energy. And don’t get me started on the crazy one.”
I know all about what happened with Dana. “I remember that you did fine in Sunnydale when the house was overrun by teenaged girls.”
“Yeah. I hid in the basement when it got too noisy and couldn’t take a shower in peace unless they were outside with the drill sergeant in the backyard.”
“You helped me train them,” I remind him as memories and feelings flood my mind.
His voice tells me that something similar is happening with him. “I guess I did at that.”
Snow starts falling again, heavier this time.
“Looks like we’re gonna be really stuck.” I mentally kick myself. That’s the second time I’ve referred to being here with Spike as something undesirable.
He doesn’t seem to notice. . . at least not that he’s revealing. Obviously, we’re not in sync anymore because he’s not giving me much, which makes me feel sadder than I expected.
“How have you been?” he asks.
I decide to make an effort, so I share, “Staying in Rome for the most part. Dawn is doing a combination of homeschooling and some sort of exchange program with the local school. Something about her being a refugee of Sunnydale earned her some sort of exceptions in the system. She’s learning Italian. . . well, that and various demon languages and loving all of it. Because Willow and Xander have been busy in other parts of the world, Giles is staying with us for a while because we needed help with the Immortal situation. I was originally going undercover to try to squeeze information out of him. . . .”
Spike slows for a half a beat and glances at me, and I can almost imagine his eyebrow lifting.
“Sorry, poor choice of words.” I resume my high tempo pace and continue talking, “We went on a few dates until he figured out that I was just using him to get intel on some underground demon ring. Needless to say, he isn’t a happy camper. . . hasn’t been one for several months. Giles sent me to Texas to retrieve some mystical book that’s supposed to help bind the Immortal’s powers during some ritual that’s best performed by the light of the full moon after the Spring Equinox or something.”
“There’s a book?” He ignores what I’ve said about the Immortal.
“Yeah, a book. . . a volume with a particular spell.” I take the plunge, “And by the way, I found out that you and Angel showed up in Rome. . . and didn’t even say hello!”
I wish more than anything I could see his expression. “I’m sorry, pet. . . I . . . we thought that. . . .”
“I was dating the Immortal? Stupid Andrew! Giles, Dawn and I decided not to tell him the truth because he would’ve spilled the beans.”
“Yeah, oh. Since I’m making a spectacle of myself, I may as well ask my next question.” I pause for effect. “Spike, why haven’t you ever contacted me about being back?”
He’s apparently thought about this because he responds without hesitation, “Because when I burned up in that cavern, I thought that was it. Closure.”
He’s silent for several seconds, and I wait because I sense that he has more to say.
He fills the space, “I didn’t think you’d want the complication, and I sure as hell couldn’t top the way I went. . . not in your eyes. I wanted you to go and live your life. . . to be happy.”
My anger covers my hurt at his obviously rehearsed speech, and I react before I can stop myself, “Been there, done that.”
“What do you mean, pet?” His use of one of his usual nicknames makes hope sing through my heart despite my irritation.
“Angel. You know. . . the whole breakup and resulting angst and staying away from one another except at key moments in our lives thing.”
“Our situation’s a bit more complicated.” He’s amused again, which pushes me to keep going.
“No, it’s not. . . not really.” I put my glove-covered hand on his coat-covered forearm, but despite the lack of skin touching skin, he halts in his tracks. I babble onward, spewing all my pent-up thoughts, “Do you honestly think that I cared so much about how you saved the world that I wouldn’t be glad. . . no, extremely happy. . . to see you again? I *wanted* to see you. You didn’t let me be there for *you* after all those times you were there for me, and Andrew said. . . he said you didn’t want to see me. I was trying to respect your space like you respected mine.”
“I thought you were dating the Immortal!”
“Not when you saw Andrew the first time!”
I barely make out his shoulders slumping in the dim luminance from the flashlight. “I can’t believe I said that to him. . . should have known sodding Andrew wouldn’t keep his trap shut. Thought maybe he had a screw loose since he was sucking pennies and pulling his vamp-ire act at Wolfram and Hart. Wish he were here so I could throttle him.”
“I don’t wish he were here.”
I deliberately shine the flashlight so that the beam is at an angle but still illuminates his face. I have to see him.
Snow is falling all around him, and I blink past the white and tremble but not from the cold. He looks exactly the same. . . bleached blonde hair slicked back with one stray curl hanging over his forehead, carved cheekbones that I long to run my fingertips over, and blue eyes wide open with his emotions.
Even if the feelings aren’t for me, I can’t help myself and throw my arms around his neck while standing on my toes. . . not an easy feat in the snow. He staggers a bit with my sudden weight, but his arms go tightly around my waist. I press my face into his neck, the only bare skin available and inhale his familiar scent, something I never thought I’d experience again.
I only wish my coat was less poofy.
“Stupid coat.” I comment into his chest, and I’m rewarded with another soft laugh.
My hood has fallen back again, and I feel his cheek on the top of my head. “So. . .”
“Spend Christmas with me?”
“Sure, pet, but. . .”
I’m alarmed. What caveat is he going to put on this plan of mine? “I have a cabin that Giles rented for me and everything. You’re welcome to stay. . . unless you have somewhere to go.” Or someone else to be with.
“We have a slayer to find. And we’re almost there. Someone’s bound to know where she is. Town’s so small.”
I gaze up at his face, and he smiles at me and nods to his left. In the distance, I vaguely see what look like Christmas lights and a bright diamond-shaped sign shimmering between snowflakes. “Think they have heat?”
“Let’s hope so.”
We move apart, but I make sure to squeeze Spike’s gloved hand with mine before separation occurs. He thankfully allows the touch, and together, we head toward the bar, twinkling lights, and warmth.
* * *