Title: Secret Santa
Era/season/setting: Season 6
Summary: Sequel to my November SS entry Miracle Bug. Spike tries to bring some Christmas cheer to the Summers household.
This is an entry for the Hidden Gems Holiday Event, for the prompt by Ellie Rose McKee:
"I would like a Spuffy one shot that's just some nice seasonal fluff."
A/N Thank you to my beta, Badwolfjedi.
Deck the halls with boughs of... demon slime. Ugh. And I thought prickly leaves weren't very festive.
Buffy groused to herself, humming Christmas carols as she scrubbed an oozy stain from above the mantel. She wasn't in the holiday spirit. She hadn't been for Thanksgiving, but had told herself that was fine, because really that had become a festival destroyed by bouts of demonic syphilis and brain surgery. Christmas was different. It was a happy time with no Hellmouthy tales of destruction to ruin her memories of it. Except this year...
She wished more than anything that her mom was there. Joyce Summers would have provided the most spectacular tree in all of Sunnydale. She wouldn't have needed to accept a ratty-looking, probably-stolen tree from a vampire that had turned out to be home to some sort of demonic squirrels. Stupid Spike. How he hadn't noticed the evil little monsters before they got the decorations out – what happened to his vaunted vamp senses? Did they go away for the holiday?
Now, half the decorations they had left (of the few boxes that had survived the flooded basement) were crushed and broken. She had a lopsided tree that had lost half its needles across the carpet and there were splats of foul-smelling gunk all over the living room. It was not shaping up to be a very Merry Christmas this year.
It was hard enough, what with the complete lack of money. Let alone considering that her sister was becoming a delinquent and her housemate was her ex-best-friend's ex. Not to mention the fangless vampire lurking in the corner (or, more likely, outside by the tree whenever the lack of direct sunlight permitted). She didn't need crazy demon squirrels making things worse!
With a huff, she threw the goo-caked rag into the pile and surveyed her limited progress. She couldn't quite believe how many of the little buggers had been hiding in one crappy little tree – and oh God did she just speak like Spike in her own head? She had definitely been spending way too much time with the idiot if she was starting to use his stupid British words!
She had just about finished clearing up the mess when a clatter in the hallway indicated that Dawn and Tara were back from their Christmas shopping trip. Buffy felt guilty at that – she couldn't really afford the twenty dollars she had given her sister, but it seemed like a miserly budget for gift-buying. Even if she had insisted that she didn't need anything for herself. Still, it was about twenty dollars more than Buffy had spent.
She was a terrible sister-mom. She hadn't even wanted to think about Christmas or decorations or anything. Dawn had been a good sport about it, but she could tell that her sister missed the festive atmosphere that their mom had so carefully crafted throughout the month of December.
It was now the 23rd and she had only pulled out the decorations that morning when she woke up and found the stupid, lopsided tree in her living room with a note from Spike telling her to make some happy memories with her sister. Of course, Dawn had been excited to the point that she had wanted to skip her shopping trip altogether until Tara kindly reminded her how not fun shopping on Christmas Eve would be.
So, Buffy had promised a properly festive home by the time the girls returned and had instead spent the morning battling miniature demons and the rest of the day cleaning up their entrails. So much for happy, Christmassey memories.
Fortunately, Dawn chose to see the funny side. In fact, Buffy couldn't remember seeing her sister laugh so hard since long before their mom got sick. It was enough to draw a genuine smile out of the Slayer.
It was almost enough to make her forgive the stupid vampire who caused all the mess in the first place.
By late afternoon, Buffy was almost overwhelmed with the need to escape. Even just being in her house all day left her feeling tense and claustrophobic. If she didn't get out there would be no escaping the dream tonight. There was little chance of escaping it anyway, but sometimes being outside for a while was enough to chase it away.
Being buried alive had always been one of her biggest fears.
It seemed like even Dawn couldn't ignore her jitteryness and she practically kicked Buffy out of the house. Even though they had barely spent any time together today. She really didn't deserve her.
So now, Buffy was trudging through the darkening graveyard towards Spike's crypt and entirely unsure what she should say when she got there. She so wanted to shout at him and be angry and yet he had only been trying to do something nice for her and Dawn. She was still considering her options when she pushed open the door.
She had stopped slamming her way into the crypt after the first time she had terrified the puppy who was still trying to adapt to the fact that he wasn't food. Watching as he had trembled for a full half hour, still not trusting his demon to protect him and equally wary of the loud human – it was quite possibly the first time she had felt truly apologetic since she came back.
Now she doubted that Bug would be bothered by her banging the door open, but she had adapted and on reflection it had been an incredibly rude habit to have gotten into.
Spike was, predictably for this time of day, sprawled in his recliner and watching reruns of Passions. Bug, in his typical display of exuberance, was bouncing around under her feet before she had even cleared the threshold.
His voice sounded worried, unsurprising since he was not expecting to see her again until the next evening.
It was this concern that doused the last of her angry feelings. She slouched against the stone sarcophagus with a sigh.
“Please tell me that those evil squirrels were not advertised as a bonus gift that came with the tree.”
The honest confusion at her comment was enough for her to shed the last tiny slithers of doubt about his intentions.
Another sigh. “Yeah, nasty little things that jumped out and attacked when I tried to trim the tree that you left.”
The crestfallen expression on his face made her want to cross the room and give the evil vampire a hug. Except he wasn't that type of friend. Mostly. At least, not when she wasn't having a mental breakdown.
“You were attacked?” he asked in a slightly panicked tone, “are you alright? The Bit?”
Buffy gave a weak smile.
“I'm fine. Dawn was out with Tara and managed to come home just as I finished cleaning up the demon guts.”
Spike smirked. “That sounds like my Bit.”
Buffy rolled her eyes but couldn't help agreeing.
“So you come here to shout at me for the tree demons?”
She shrugged. “I wasn't sure. It was definitely not how I planned to spend my day... but I know you were only trying to help, and it wasn't your fault that the tree was possessed – just my Hellmouthy luck.”
Spike looked like he didn't really agree but wasn't about to start a fight over it.
“You want to give Bug a run around before we walk you home?”
She nodded and let the crazy puppy chase away the less than pleasant start to the day.
When she got home a couple of hours later, it was to the warm scent of Tara's speciality shepherd's pie and the old familiar sounds of her mom's favourite Christmas music.
What she was not expecting was the explosion of bits of paper and glitter all over the floor that she had spent a good deal of her afternoon cleaning.
Then she saw it. The lopsided tree in the corner had been draped in the most ridiculous assortment of handmade decorations that she had ever seen.
Cotton wool balls had been glued into snowmen – or rather snowvamps, since they all seemed to have little cardboard fangs complete with blood drops. Cardboard snowflakes were dripping glitter onto the carpet. There were some brown paper origami things with candy canes stuck out the top which Buffy guessed were supposed to be reindeer.
There was even a string of hand-holding gingerbread demons stuck at a jaunty angle on the wall.
It looked like a Hellmouthy kindergarten had vomited across her living room.
Christmas Eve dawned with the same clear skies and sunshine that typified winter in Southern California.
Buffy spent the morning creating the first half of her Christmas gifts for the year – gingerbread cookies. She figured that her friends all knew she was broke and none of them would turn away a bag of festive sugary goodness. She didn't even feel terribly guilty when Tara offered to help her.
Dawn was playing the part of 'teenager on vacation' to perfection and slept in until lunchtime.
After lunch there was more baking – Dawn had declared that it was absolutely essential that they had their very own gingerbread house. Even memories of MOO and the Hansel and Gretel demon hadn't been able to convince her otherwise.
So it was that when Spike burst through the kitchen door about five minutes before it was really dark enough for him to be running around outside, he found the three girls in a cloud of powdered sugar and giggling madly as they piled on ever thicker layers of icing 'cement' to walls that continually threatened to fall down.
He just stared. Was this the first time she had laughed with her sister since she came back, or was it just the first time he was there to witness it?
It didn't matter. It was magical.
True to his name, Bug ruined the moment by barrelling into the house and trying to attack the sugar cloud.
“No! Bug!” a giggling Dawn shrieked when he nearly knocked her down in his enthusiasm.
Buffy stepped back and held up a hand. “Bug. Sit!”
Much to Spike's surprise, the little bugger listened to the command and sat obediently to attention. Buffy slipped him a bit of one of her less-than-perfect cookies and smirked at the vampire.
“See, I told you! You just need to be firm.”
Spike rolled his eyes and pretended that he wasn't impressed. He cast a critical gaze over the three bakers. They all had smears of sticky white all over their clothes and faces and their hair was decidedly greyer than it had been the last time he saw them.
It was very hard not to laugh. If he wasn't so scared of ruining the Slayer's good mood, he probably wouldn't have tried.
Instead he sauntered through to the living room, fully intending to avoid being roped into clean-up by watching some telly. Surely there was something on that wasn't a fuzzy holiday romance.
He stopped short just inside the room, gobsmacked. He had literally no words to describe the Slayer's idea of decorating.
“Wow, Slayer – love what you've done with the place!”
His tone was carefully this side of mocking, for which he was incredibly grateful when Dawn popped up at his elbow and greeted him with a beaming smile.
“Really? You like it? I had to make a lot of the decorations because Buffy slayed most of what was left of our usual ones. Tara helped a bit, once dinner was in the oven. Buffy laughed for about half an hour when she saw my snowpires.”
She pointed, and Spike realised, on closer examination, that the white fluffy things dangling all over the tree were actually snowmen. With fangs. He grinned and slung an arm around Dawn's shoulder, squeezing her to his side.
“It's perfect, Bit.”
The teen grinned back before flitting upstairs, presumably to claim the first shower.
A warm hand squeezed his arm and he turned to find Buffy at his side.
“Thank you,” at his slightly puzzled look she elaborated, “for not mocking. I know it looks like a preschool Halloween themed Christmas party in here, but she really tried. So thanks.”
Spike gave her a genuine smile. “I meant it. If those crazy fanged fluff-balls made you laugh that much, then it is perfect.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “It was definitely not half an hour. A couple of minutes, maybe.”
Spike didn't say anything to that. In his mind, any amount of Buffy laughter was precious. Instead, he made his way to his original destination and sprawled across the couch, remote appearing in his hand as if by magic.
The Slayer shook her head and returned to the kitchen to help Tara with the last of the clean-up.
A couple of hours later, all three girls were squeaky clean and dressed in their fuzziest of winter pyjamas. Spike was a little overwhelmed at being accepted into this intimate scene – sure they covered more than a lot of what the Slayer and her sister wore on a daily basis, but something about the fact that they were comfortable hanging out with him in what was obviously sleepwear warmed his dead heart.
Bug had been fed and, after a few minutes of shrinking terror when he caught a whiff of the Christmas tree (Spike hadn't been sure whether he could smell the demons that had once made it their home, or if it was the abundance of glitter that scared the pup) was now sleepily settled on the floor near his master's feet.
“So what's the plan now, Ladies?”
He was half prepared to be asked to leave.
Dawn bounced down next to him on the sofa. “Now, we watch cheesy old Christmas movies, drink hot chocolate and eat too much sugar.”
And they did.
After the second film finished, Buffy had tried to persuade her sister to go to bed.
“It's late, and you know that Santa won't leave you anything if you aren't asleep in your bed when he comes.”
Spike had looked thoughtful at her comment, but Dawn had scoffed and insisted that “I'm not a little kid anymore, Buffy. I know that you've got a few dollar store sparklies tucked under your bed for my stocking and that you will put them in whatever time I go to bed. Also, Santa is a demon. If he came, you'd have to slay him.”
Which had won her both the argument and the right to stay up and watch the final film, which she had fallen asleep half way through.
Her sister had shaken her awake at the end and guided the sleepy teen up to bed. Spike hadn't been able to keep from hearing their goodnights and Dawn's final words before she tucked herself in.
“Spike is staying tonight, isn't he? I mean, he has to be here tomorrow. He can't spend Christmas on his own.”
Buffy hadn't instantly shut her sister down, which shocked the eavesdropping vampire.
“I don't think vampires celebrate Christmas, Dawnie,” there was a pause then, which Spike rightly assumed to be the younger girl making good use of her puppy dog eyes because Buffy continued with an exasperated sigh and possibly the best words he had ever heard. “...but I will make sure that he knows that he is welcome to join us.”
Dawn had let out a happy squeal, followed seconds later by the sound of her bedroom door closing.
When Buffy came back downstairs, she took one look at the vampire's terrible attempt to hide his smile and shook her head in exasperation.
“You heard that, huh?”
“I meant it,” she said. “You are welcome to join us tomorrow.”
He could tell that it wasn't the offer to spend Christmas with them that was making the Slayer nervous. She was tired and wasn't comfortable asking him to leave, yet didn't really want him staying while she slept.
He wished that it wasn't the case, but he didn't begrudge her.
“Don't worry, Slayer. I've got to walk Bug again and pick up some blood if I'm gonna be here all day tomorrow. I'll pop back just before sunup, be here when the Bit wakes.”
He saw the tension leave her shoulders.
“It's not that I think you would hurt us. I mean, I do trust you. With Dawn, at least. Just not with my whiskey.”
Spike laughed at that. “You don't have any whiskey, Slayer.”
She smirked and replied, “that's what you think.”
Chuckling, he called Bug to his side and they went out into the night.
Dawn bounced into Buffy's room far too early the next morning. She might try and insist that she was too grown up for Santa, but the girl still acted like a hyperactive six year old on Christmas morning.
“Merry Christmas, Buffy! Come on, get up – we have to check our stockings!”
Buffy rolled her eyes, but accepted defeat. There was no chance that her sister would allow her even five more minutes of rest. The clock on her nightstand blinked at her, the luminous green numbers declaring that it was 06:23. She groaned as she sat up, but her sleepy brain was too sluggish to realise that she would not be her sister's only pre-dawn victim of Christmas Spirit and she didn't think to tell her to leave their housemate alone.
Poor Tara woke with a squeal when the bed beside her bounced under the enthusiastic teenager. “Merry Christmas! Come down and see what Santa left!”
The witch mumbled a sleepy “I thought Santa was a demon?” but her question was unanswered as Dawn was already bounding down the stairs.
“Sorry,” came Buffy's voice from the doorway. “I didn't think to tell her to leave you sleeping. She is a maniac on Christmas. If you want to stay in bed, I'll keep her downstairs.”
Tara smiled and sat up. “I'm awake now, might as well get up. I wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun!”
The two girls made their way downstairs without the enthusiasm of the youngest member of the house. They were only mildly concerned to see the teenager preparing to cook – Tara hurried over to supervise the preparation of what she quickly realised was hot chocolate.
Soon there were three steaming mugs placed on the kitchen island, where their gingerbread house was standing proudly in the centre. Or rather, just-about staying up lopsidedly in the centre.
Dawn gave it a critical once over and sighed. “We really should get Xander over next time we are doing construction work.”
Buffy giggled. “I don't think confectionary counts, Dawnie. I would worry that he would eat the structural supports by accident.”
The teen nodded in agreement before revealing the rather alarming fact that she had somehow procured a hammer between pouring and serving the hot drinks.
“I have a feeling that this house should be condemened,” Dawn announced dramatically before slamming the hammer into the roof. The rest of the house remained in one determinedly lopsided piece.
It took much more smashing and bashing than should have been necessary to completely knock down their gingerbread house. Not that Dawn seemed to mind. The three girls then proceeded to eat a reasonable chunk of the rubble for breakfast.
Once the three mugs were empty, Dawn declared “Stocking time!” and dragged the older girls into the living room. Once they were seated on the sofa as she had demanded, Dawn retrieved the three bulging stockings from where they had been hung the night before.
Buffy looked at them with mild confusion – the gifts she had put in the night before were most definitely not enough to cause all that bulging. She exchanged a look with Tara, but the witch looked so surprised that she had any gifts in her stocking that she was certain it wasn't her.
When she pulled out a large, cardboard cone that had been decorated with an intricate hand-drawn pattern, she was even more confused. All three of them had one. Dawn's was filled with sweets, Tara had a candle and a few small crystals and Buffy's was full of her favourite chocolates. Poked down through the centre of the cone was a beautiful, delicate paper flower that had obviously been made by hand.
Then she abruptly recognised the paper as being from the really nice roll of gift wrap that she had bought the week before which had immediately vanished.
There was only one person that would make her a flower using stolen wrapping paper.
“It's called a cornucopia, my mother used to make them,” explained Tara as she and Dawn were cooing over the different decorations that had been drawn on their cones.
Buffy explored further into her stocking and discovered a large orange and several nuts on top of the expected couple of dollar-store items. There was also a small gift, wrapped in the same paper that the flower had been made from.
Inexplicably nervous, she undid the wrapping to discover a beautiful, obviously handmade miniature picture frame. She was so busy admiring it that it took her a moment to realise that the frame was only something to go around the picture in the middle. A sketch of herself cuddling a certain black puppy. The detail was incredible, despite the scale, and left Buffy in absolutely no doubt as to the identity of their secret Santa.