Era/season/setting: Post-series, no comics
Summary: ‘Tis the season at the Slayer Academy, and the night is dark and full of terrors. Join Buffy, Spike, and the rest of the Scoobies for monsters, (mostly) chronologically-appropriate pop culture references, and just a bit of smut. Takes place about three months after the main events of Liebestod, but can be read as a standalone if you ignore the handful of references to preceding events and Spike being randomly human-ish.
Some seventy-two hours later, the charm had decidedly worn off. It was Christmas Eve and Buffy was not at all optimistic about everyone making it to Christmas Day without strangling each other. Cabin fever didn’t even begin to describe it. They were out of things to watch, they were out of games to play—hell, they were nearly out of food. And what food they had was nowhere in the vicinity of looking like a proper Christmas Eve dinner. The cook had not returned since the snow had started and, so far, Dawn had demonstrated more culinary talent than all the rest of them combined. Which was saying something.
“Gahhh,” Xander spat as he bit into one of the freshly-baked cookies, which Buffy had managed to retrieve from the oven decorated with only a light char. “What is in these?”
“Uhhh,” she scrunched her face. “The usual stuff? Butter, flour, sugar—come on, it can’t be that bad—”
“Try it,” Xander shoved the cookie in her face, the challenge glittering in his eyes.
Buffy took the cookie gingerly and bit into a corner. “Bleeaagghh!” she stuck out her tongue, not caring that it was covered in cookie bits. “But—I don’t understand…butter, flour, sugar— what could go wrong?”
“Where did you get the sugar?” Dawn’s voice sounded from behind her.
Buffy shrugged. “That big bag over by the flour—”
“Uh huh,” Dawn nodded, with a smirk.
“What?” Buffy frowned.
“Oh, nothing,” Dawn giggled, reaching for a spoon. She walked over to the bag in question and scooped out some of the little white crystals inside. “Open wide!” she sang, thrusting the spoon in Buffy’s face, much in the same manner as Xander had done with the cookie seconds earlier. “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down—”
Buffy, still frowning, stuck out the tip of her tongue to taste the spoon’s contents. “Oh God—” she chocked. “What is that? Salt?”
“I mean, you were halfway there,” Dawn giggled, throwing the spoon into the sink. “At least you knew you needed something white and granular—”
“You saw me do it,” Buffy growled her expression darkening. “Damn it, Dawn—”
“How else are you gonna learn?” Dawn shot back, patting Buffy on the shoulder as she blithely ignored her sister’s death stare. “Go give one to Spike. He should know what he’s in for. Might motivate him to learn to cook.”
At this, Buffy’s expression brightened. The indignant scowl was slowly replaced by a conspiratory grin.
“Hey Spike—” she exclaimed, bouncing over to the other end of the industrial kitchen, where Spike was busy trying to decipher the recipe for some bizarre kind of pudding. “Try this cookie!”
“You make it?” Spike eyed her skeptically.
Buffy’s face wore the conspicuous expression of someone who was quickly debating whether or not to lie. “Yeah,” she finally said with an air of innocent cheer. “For you!”
“Right,” he nodded. “So you’re back to trying to kill me, are you?”
But, of course, it took only a single well-arranged pout and Spike relented. Taking the cookie, he bit off just enough to not seem excessively cautious. A second later, the twitching muscles of his face and throat yielded ample proof of just what a mistake this had been.
“It’s—err—really good,” he managed to choke out.
This display of acquiescent suffering took the wind right out of Buffy’s sails. No fun to be had if he was gonna be all gracious about it.
“No, it’s not,” she said defeatedly.
“No—it’s really fucking not—” Spike confirmed. Laughing, he pulled her into his arms. “Good thing it’s not why I fell in love with you, Slayer. Never thought you were built for homemaking, but there was nothing left to the imagination after that first Thanksgiving. Getting shot full of arrows was nothing to the travesty of your apple pie.”
“I really tried, you know,” she mumbled into his shoulder.
“I know, love,” he said soothingly. “What’d you do? Mix up the sugar and the salt?” This was met with a grudging nod. “S’alright,” he smiled into her hair. “Look on the bright side. If you ever lose your edge in hand-to-hand combat, you’ve got at least one other deadly skill—”
A piercing scream sounded from the common room a second later, making them all jump. Buffy immediately suspected that she’d be needing some of her non-baking-related deadly skills before long.
“One of the baby Slayers?” Spike asked tersely.
“I think so,” she nodded.
And then they were racing towards the common room, the rest of the group on their heels. Sure enough, Stasya, a new girl who was all of six years old and therefore one of the youngest Slayers in their charge, was screaming her head off, trembling finger pointed at the window. Buffy followed the girl’s gesture but saw nothing but snow.
“Monster—” the little girl squeaked in her shaky Latvian accent. “Monster!”
“Don’t know if that one’s cut out to be a Slayer,” Dawn wrinkled her nose, regarding the child with an air of decided superiority. “Even I was never that loud.”
In a rare moment of sisterly solidarity, Buffy was about to agree. But Spike was striding forward. A moment later, he’d scooped Stasya up into his arms, holding her protectively as he walked towards the window.
“You were a touch older when you saw your first beastie, as I recall,” he shook his head at Dawn reprovingly. Then he turned his gaze to the girl in his arms. “S’alright, pidge, monster can’t get you in here. But no use being scared of it either. You grow a bit bigger, it’ll be scared of you.”
Eyes squinting, he peered through the icy window and out into the maelstrom outside. Were those only tree branches moving in the wind, or the shadows of something more sinister?
The answer appeared another split-second later in the form of a swollen purple face, its cavernous eyes glinting icy blue. The face lunged towards the frosty glass and then seemed to ricochet off and back into the roiling dark.
“Bloody hell!” Spike yelped, shrinking back as he clutched Stasya to him. The little girl began to cry.
But the face was followed by another at the neighboring window. And then another. They hit the glass, making small popping sounds, like bits of hail, before being propelled away once more.
“Guess all that decorating worked after all,” Xander remarked warily, nevertheless edging towards the center of the room and as far away from any windows as the space allowed. The small group of Slayers who’d been playing in the common room, a couple of them not much older than Stasya, huddled behind him, emitting small whimpers.
“They can’t get in, right?” Buffy eyed the windows skeptically. “it’s the magic that making them rebound like that?”
“I think so,” Willow nodded.
But this didn’t seem to prevent the creatures from trying. One after the other, they lunged at the windows, their eyes glinting in the dark like oddly-colored headlights. Pop. Pop. Pop.
Spike finally backed away from the window, gave Stasya one final encouraging squeeze, and handed her off to one of the junior Watchers who chose that precise moment to appear in the doorway.
“What’s going on?” the young man asked uneasily.
“Looks like the zombie jamboree’s looking to move inside again,” Spike replied gruffly, then gestured at the other little Slayers. “Take this lot somewhere with a bit less of a view, will you? And where’s Thompkins scampered off to? Get him to help.”
The junior Watcher, still distinctly disconcerted, set about shepherding the girls out of the room. And not a moment too soon, it turned out. Something painfully bright flashed through the churning snow outside, to be quickly followed by a downright deafening peal of thunder.
The aforementioned zombies were coming with greater frequency now, a veritable hailstorm of distended flesh against the glass.
“Goddamn it,” Buffy cursed. “Really?”
She rushed to the window, struggling to ignore the mass of bodies in her attempts to get a better look at the shining rift that appeared to have opened up in the sky above them. Something large seemed to snake out of the bright space, undulating through the snowy clouds.
“Something coming?” Spike murmured as he came up behind her.
But the question soon proved superfluous. A great whooshing sound seemed to reverberate through the building.
“It must be right above us,” Buffy frowned.
“The roof?” Spike asked.
“The roof,” she nodded tersely.
And then they were all scrambling up the stairs, grabbing weapons from emergency hiding places as they went. No one thought to grab a jacket. The icy air hit them like a wall when Spike whipped open the door to the roof and stepped aside as Buffy raced through it, sword held aloft.
Whatever Buffy had been expecting to see, it didn’t quite capture the scene before them now. A massive host—armed warriors on horseback, chains rattling, great big hounds—sailed through the air above them, as though carried on the swirling snow. Round and round they went, until a towering figure descended to the roof from the heart of the pack. Shielding her eyes against the pelting ice, Buffy had to count the legs on the giant horse—was it even a horse?—to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. She counted eight, but that couldn’t possibly be right—
Atop the horse sat a man, grey beard grizzled, a winged helmet perched atop his wild hair. He regarded her with a single piercing eye. Buffy wasn’t sure he had the air of someone needing to be slain, exactly, but she crouched in a defensive posture anyway and saw Spike beside her do the same.
“I see that we shall have to sweep through these parts earlier in the future,” the man’s booming voice cut through the howl of the wind. Buffy thought that she detected a trace of exasperation in it. “Stand down, small ones,” he continued, waving a pacifying hand in the direction of their group. “We have no quarrel with you. We will even spare the humans.”
“Thanks ever so,” Spike shouted back sardonically.
But Buffy elbowed him in the ribs. “Let’s not be rude to the giant man on the eight-legged horse, honey.”
“Forgive me—” Giles was elbowing his way forward past Xander and Andrew. “But you wouldn’t be… Odin?”
“I have many names, minute elder one,” the bearded man replied. “That is one of them. Now I suggest that you return to your abode. This is no place for beings as fragile as yourselves. Unless, that is—” he glanced back at Buffy and Spike, “perhaps the two immortals would like to join our hunt?”
“Sorry, your hunt?” Buffy frowned.
“The Wild Hunt—” Willow gasped. “Wow—”
Odin turned his gaze to her, regarding her curiously. “The witch would be welcome as well. Mortality is easy to resolve, after all—“
“Oh, no, no,” Willow stammered somewhat ungracefully. “No thanks. I’m honored, really. But I’m good.”
Odin inclined his head. “I thought perhaps not. If I am not mistaken, I am not the first god you have spurned.”
“A god, huh? What is it exactly that you’re hunting?” Buffy yelled, her voice still straining over the blustering wind.
“Nothing under your protection,” Odin replied dismissively.
But Buffy was intent to press the issue. Not that she was in the mood to go head to head with another deity at the moment, but when did she ever really have a choice? “Yeah, well, see,” she shouted back. “Slayer, here—kind of my job to make sure—”
At that, Odin released a booming laugh. “A Slayer? You are no Slayer,” he said, seemingly shocked that she would say something so foolish. “No more than he is a vampire,” he added, gesturing towards Spike. “The draugs are my company’s concern, just like any other soulless creature that manages to slip through the season’s thinning veil. You would do well to join us, miniscule immortal ones. No doubt there will soon be less honorable causes that will try to lay claim to your talents.”
Buffy eyed Spike warily. “Uhhh, thanks,” she replied shakily. “Not really sure what you’re talking about. And this looks fun and all—”
“Think I could get my own eight-legged horse?” Spike shouted from beside her.
Odin regarded him for a moment, then laughed jovially. “Sleipnir is my mount, diminutive one, and you are yet ill-equipped to ride him. My most experienced men struggle with six legs. Best for you to stick with four.”
“We’ll be passing then,” Spike returned, as though it was the insult of a regular four-legged horse that had broken the deal.
“Suit yourselves,” Odin shrugged. “You shall have to accept our thanks for luring our quarry here. It will be a fruitful hunt indeed!”
“Now wait a second,” Xander shouted from the back of the group. “Isn’t this the part where you’re supposed to… I don’t know—make with the symbolic gifts or something?”
“Yeah,” Andrew piped in, evidently feeling encouraged by the lack of forthcoming violence. “A dagger from the Barrow-downs? A lock of your hair!”
Odin only looked at them quizzically for a moment. And then, with a resigned shake of his helmeted head, he was bounding off, his grizzled mane whipping about in the violent gusts of wind that seemed to follow him into the sky. As he reclaimed his place at the head of the airborne company, the whole host reared up and then dove towards the ground like a dark meteor. The humans on the roof barely had time to race over to the edge where they caught a glimpse of the zombies scattering wildly as the hunters flung their chains around their frail-looking bodies. The hounds bounded after those that were attempting to make their escape with thunder-like growls and snapping jaws.
“Well, shit,” Spike shook his head. “And a merry bloody Christmas to all.”
Beside him, Buffy was shivering violently, as was the rest of the group. Indeed, Spike himself was beginning to look positively blue around the edges.
“Might I suggest we take this conversation back inside,” Giles called through chattering teeth.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m about to lose some fairly important body parts to frostbite,” Xander agreed.
“What do you think he meant when he said I wasn’t a Slayer?” Buffy mumbled into Spike’s shoulder after they’d collapsed into bed a few hours later, full of a surprisingly passable Christmas dinner and tired to the bone.
“Beats me, pet,” Spike answered. “Really wish these guys would stop dropping in from the rafters and telling us ambiguous tripe we have no way of makin’ sense of. First that squirrelly Whistler bloke a couple of months back, now this.”
Buffy nodded her agreement. “Willow never did manage to figure out what Whistler was talking about with all that immortality business. But I guess we’ll find out next time someone tries to shoot me or throw me off a tower or something.”
She’d meant it as a joke, but knew the humor hadn’t landed as soon as the words left her mouth. Spike tensed against her.
“Let’s try and keep you unshot, if it’s all the same to you, love,” he said darkly.
“I don’t wanna die, Spike.” She pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw to punctuate the point. “I think I might actually be happy for the first time in a long time. Or getting there anyway. I just hate not knowing. Being the Slayer was weird enough—and now—”
“Well, I wouldn’t wager on things getting any less weird any time soon,” he sighed. “Seems to me it’s part of the package. Apocalyptic prophesies, and gods dropping out of the sky at Christmas, and whatnot. Weird for me too. Didn’t realize how simple things had been when I was bumming around the world with Dru all that time—a demon gang here, a spot of magic there—all small potatoes, turns out. You and your lot, you tend to attract some complicated trouble.”
She shifted against him a bit uncertainly, pressing herself tighter into the crook of his arm.
“You like trouble though,” she said quietly.
“That I do.” She heard rather than saw his smile. “Reacquired my taste for complicated, too, since meeting you.” He paused for a moment, then. “You meant it, yeah? You and me?”
“I meant it,” Buffy confirmed.
“Then we’ll just have to figure it out, won’t we?”
Outside, everything was silent. The snowfall came softly now, its fluffy flaked drifting through the clear night air. Was it peaceful, the silence? Or just the calm before another storm. Buffy couldn’t quite tell. But for now, perhaps, it was alright not to know.
“Tell me more pretty words, William,” she sighed, looking up at him in the dark.
She thought she heard him chuckle lightly. It was another couple of moments before he spoke.
“Silently if, out of not knowable night’s utmost nothing, wanders a little guess—only which is this world,” he began softly, whispering into her hair. “More of my life does not leap than with the mystery your smile sings or if—spiraling as luminous they climb oblivion—voices who are dreams, less into heaven certainly earth swims than each my deeper death becomes your kiss.” His words spun dizzyingly in her head, like snowflakes caught on the wind. And suddenly she knew that it would be alright. Amidst all the inevitable chaos and the pandemonium, he would be there. And it would be alright. But he was still talking— “Losing through you what seemed myself,” he breathed, dipping his face down until his nose grazed hers. “I find selves unimaginably mine, beyond sorrow’s own joys and hoping’s very fears.”
And then he kissed her. And it was all alright.