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Paring: S/X (BtVS)
Rating: NC-17
A/N: Set 4 years post Not Fade Away. Only Spike survived Wolfram and Heart. Otherwise, pure and total schmoop fest. Hey look, I can write not-angst…who knew? Also, decidedly unbetad:)
Disclaimer: Aren’t mine. Never have been, never will be. Don’t sue, this is my fun.

Gingerbread Homes and Christmas Wishes


Part One

Xander closed the door to his midnight blue Cherokee and pressed the “lock” button as he shoved the keys into his wool pea coat. He wrapped his cashmere scarf just a little tighter, teeth chattering, grimacing as a fresh burst of arctic wind slammed into his face. He made his way across the street and headed towards the entrance to the Post Office on Halston Street.

Once inside the warm and brightly lit foyer, he quickly shuffled through the stack of white envelopes, making sure they were each stamped and addressed properly. He stopped and thumbed over the name on one in particular, “‘Spike’ c/o Dawn Summers”. He gave a heavy sigh, but opened the chute and dropped them into the deposit slot, glad to finally have them out of his hands and on their way.

On his way back out, he glanced at himself in the mirror and smiled wide, enjoying the image he saw. A grown man with short hair, ink black but with a few strands of gray at the temples. The beginnings of crows feet peeking out from under the sunglasses he wore in bright light to mask the glare off the glass eye. The slightest smile lines from years too long ago. Tall and fit, dazzling in a tailored pinstripe suit and black and white wingtip shoes.

Xander smoothed out a wrinkle in his trousers, glanced in the mirror again, and made his way through the revolving door and out into the too dark too soon night, where heavy snowflakes had just begun to descend, though which were already starting to cake the cars and buildings along the street.

Having done away with the glass hours ago, Spike drank straight from the bottle of cheap whiskey he’d bought in town earlier. Several gulps later, and he slammed the empty bottle down on the rickety old table right next to the letter he’d received at sunset.

Before he’d even opened the letter, he’d gone to the all-night market just outside of town and grabbed the first bottle of whiskey he’d seen on the shelf. He slapped down a pink 10 Euro note, and got a blue five note back.

That was hours ago, and the letter still sat unopened on the table in front of him, the snick snick snick of the ceiling fan above Spike’s head stirring more noise than air. The dingy light bulb hanging from the fan swayed back and forth, causing shadows to shrink and grow and creep across and around the walls. The Mediterranean breeze blowing softly through the open French doors tried to pry the letter from the table, but each time, Spike would slap his hand down on top of it, as if it was a prisoner trying to escape.

“Xander bloody Harris. After all this fucking time?” Spike slurred, stumbling as he stood too quickly, knocking the old wooden chair to floor. The chair shattered like glass on the terracotta tiles.

“Bloody fucking hell!” he shouted at no one. The room was swimming in and out of focus, duplicating itself and churning like a child’s toy spinning top.

He felt himself falling backward, so he overcompensated by leaning too far forward, and he quickly found himself on his knees, his arms slung over the table and his head resting upon the letter.

In a moment of pure hatred and fury, he wrenched himself up from his knees, crumpled the envelope into his fist, and stormed outside, through the small courtyard, and down the beach to where the evening tide was raging against the rocks.

The evening here on the rocks was surreal to Spike. The moon was too white, too bright, and the sea was turbulent as if the Tempest herself were wrecking havoc this night.

Spike screamed obscenities into the wind in every language he’d ever heard, fisted the crumpled paper into a tight ball no larger than a robin’s egg, and in one fluid motion, he launched the letter into the night air. It flew so far, Spike had no idea where it landed, but he hoped it would sink to the depths of the Mediterranean.

He stood there for a long time, watching the waves rise and fall, sucking the salt air deep into his lungs and wishing he’d remembered to get smokes at the market as well. At last, drunk, broken, and exhausted, Spike collapsed to the patch of sand he was standing on and sobbed enough to raise the sea level many meters.

Only thirteen days before Christmas, and Xander was sitting in front of the marble fireplace of his front parlor, listening to the pop and fizz of the dry wood, enjoying the smell and the heat, basking in the pleasant glow the firelight gave the room. He sat on the floor before the coffee table, just relaxing and sipping idly at the bottle of beer he’d grabbed from the kitchen on his way in.

He set the bottle down on the richly stained oak, and with one hand loosened and removed the silk tie and unbuttoning his collar; the other grabbing the stack of mail and sifting through it.

Xander’s breath stopped as he came across the last letter in the pile. Stamped in Greek letters, no return address, and “Xander L. Harris,” scripted on the front in formal, elegant script. Without opening it, Xander knew whose this was.

“Spike.” He whispered to no one, as, for reasons he couldn’t quite explain, his entire face seemed to regain its youth as a smile blossomed and spread.

“Spike is coming,” he said, and for just one second, he thought the fire had repeated the name, popping and sizzling gently across the room.

He opened the letter and began reading, wiping tears from his eyes to be able to read the finely scripted letters.

Xander made one last tour of the house, checking to make sure everything was just right. He made sure the beds were made in all the bedrooms, that there were towels and soaps in each bathroom. He checked for dust, tested the vanilla scented air fresheners, and saw to it that all the windows were spot-free.

This was the same thing he’d done three times earlier that day. Each time he’d found something, but this last tour had turned up nothing other than the sparkling hardwood floors and the richly painted walls.

Xander nodded to himself, smiling slightly, and made his way to the foyer in the front of the house. He pulled on his soft leather jacket, zipping it half way, wrapped a scarf around his neck and pushed his hands into the leather gloves. He checked himself in the large mirror over the marble topped sideboard, making sure everything was just right.

Once satisfied he looked good, he grabbed his keys off the tray, slipped into his boots and left the house, making sure to lock up behind him.

The entire way to the train station, Xander kept breaking into fits of laughter and sheer joy. He was sure the other drivers on the road thought he was skitzo because one second he’d be concentrating on the slick road and the next he’d be laughing hysterically, remembering good times.

The soft glow of winter sunlight was trying to poke through the deep gray of cloud cover as the train direct from Great Falls came roaring into the station.

Xander left the Jeep double parked in the fire lane and hopped out, practically bouncing as the train came to a stop, electronic brakes squealing loudly. The doors opened and it seemed as if hundreds of people were getting off. Xander jumped up to see through the rushing crowd, but didn’t recognize anyone.

Grandparents, parents, children, friends and pets were greeting each other all around him, embracing and calling out to one another. A man who was waiting next to Xander yelled loudly and a tall brunette with dark ruby lips and thigh-high boots came running into his arms, laughing as he spun her around.

The platform cleared quickly enough, leaving Xander and only a handful of other people. The train’s doors closed and off it went, the electric buzz grating on Xander’s nerves.

“They’re not here,” he said softly to himself, feeling as if the platform itself fell away beneath him. He turned to walk back to his Jeep and yelped in surprise as he saw them standing there, leaning casually on the vehicle, as if they’d been waiting for him.

Xander barely had time to assess how many were there when a red-headed assault missile was launched at him, and he felt the weight of her hugging him tight. She was quickly followed by one, two, three others.

“Xander! We missed you!” Willow said, tears in her eyes as she clung to him, hard enough to bruise. Xander hugged her back almost as tightly.

“Missed you too, Wills.” He said, kissing her on the top of her head. She finally eased up, and Xander turned to see Dawn, a grown up Dawn, standing there with hands on her hips, one foot turned out and tapping the sidewalk, as if waiting impatiently.

“Hey Dawnie, how’s my favorite slayer sis?” he asked, and instantly her face brightened, and she jumped into his arm, squeezing him almost, but not quite, as hard as willow. When she pulled away, she was crying, wiping the freezing tears out of her eyes.

Next was Buffy, who came up and put her arms around Xander, hugging him close.

“Uh, hey, Buff?” Xander choked out.

“Yeah, Xander?” she said, still squeezing.

“Uh, that whole slayer strength thing?” he gasped, turning blue.

“That’s what you get for making us wait five whole years to see you again, you jerk.” she said laughingly, but letting go anyway. Xander leaned in and placed a kiss on her cheek, and she smiled.

Xander turned back around to see Giles standing there, looking ever so much the English gentleman in a trench coat and tweed hat. He clutched a small suitcase in one hand and extended his other.

“Xander. I trust you’re well,” he said, so very proper. Xander took his hand, and pulled him in for a hug too. At first Giles stiffened, but he soon returned the embrace, laughing along with everyone else. “It’s good to see you, Xander.”

“You too Giles. God, I missed you guys! How is everyone? How’s the London thing, and the Council thing, and the school thing? Tell me everything. What’s been going on? God I missed you guys!” Xander exclaimed, bouncing happily.

“Hey Xander, not that we don’t wanna do the whole ‘what’s up?’ thing, but can we wait till we do the, uh, warm thing?” Buffy asked, rubbing her hands together.

“Oh, right. Winter, yeah,” he said, laughing more. “Come on, you can fill me in on everything in the car.”

Everyone stopped chattering as Xander pulled off of the highway and onto the gravel driveway. He heard a couple of people in the back actually gasp as his house came into view. Xander grinned, remembering doing the same thing the day he had bought it.

“Xander, it’s gorgeous!” he heard Willow call from the backseat. “It’s just, god, it’s gorgeous!”

“Yeah, Xander. It’s really neat.” Dawn said. Buffy was pressed up against the window and Giles just had a look of amazement on his face.

“Thanks, guys,” he said proudly. And he had every reason to be proud; he’d spent the last four years restoring the old Victorian to its current state. “There’s still a few things I need to finish, but I’ll have to wait till spring now.”

“Either way, it’s just so gorgeous!” Willow repeated. “It looks like one of those old gingerbread houses.”

Xander laughed at that, and then realized the truth of the statement. The winter skies had piled about a foot of snow on the grounds, so the acre lot the house sat on and all the trees around were blanketed. Looks like a greeting card, he thought to himself.

“Xander, how can you afford a house like this?” Buffy asked, her face still smashed up against the window.

“It actually wasn’t that expensive when I bought it, Buff. The firm was holding onto the title because they eventually wanted to set up an office in the building, and use it as sort of a show-room. But they’d had it a few years, and not too long after I got promoted up, the board voted to get rid of it. Luckily, Roger, my boss, remembered me saying how beautiful it was and asked if I wanted to make an offer. I did, and they sold it to me dirt cheap. Really, all I paid for was the land, but I think they just wanted to get it off their hands.”

Xander parked the Jeep next to the house instead of in the garage. Snow was forecasted for the night, and he didn’t want to have to dig it out of the garage again – a lesson he’d learned more times than he could count.

“Come on in, I’ll give you the grand tour.”

They all piled out of the Jeep, grabbing their bags and suitcases from the cargo hold in the back, and made their way inside. Once coats and hats and boots were discarded in the foyer, a new round of gasps and “gorgeous” made an appearance.

Xander showed them around the first floor, through the parlor flanking the foyer, the formal dining room that Xander had never used, the gigantic kitchen, the den off the back staircase, the sunroom and what he just called the “front room”.

They made their way up to the second floor, Xander showing everyone to their bedrooms. There were five in all, each one with its own private bathroom. The master bedroom and bathroom, which took up a third of the second floor, faced the front of the house, with large French windows that opened onto a balcony above the wrap-around porch. In the summer, Xander liked to sit out there with a bottle of beer and just watch the traffic on the highway and be mesmerized by the lightening bugs spark in the distance.

Finally, they made their way up another set of stairs to what Xander called his studio on the third floor. He hadn’t finished the room before winter set in, but it was getting close. All he had left to do was to lay down the new floor and trim, throw some paint on the walls. The two walls flanking the door held large picture windows from corner to corner. The opposite wall had the same, but a large stone fireplace in the middle broke up the wall of glass. There were also enormous skylights in the ceiling. This was the only room in the house that he’d allowed himself to indulge himself in his love of contemporary architecture, and it had become his favorite room.

“It’s beautiful up here at night. You can sit in the middle, on the floor, and look out at the stars. If there isn’t a fire going, it feels like you’re in a spaceship,” he said. At the moment, looking out, all you could see was an ocean of white and evergreen.

“Wow, Xander. It really is beautiful.” Dawn said, hugging him. “You did a great job.”

“I agree, Xander. It truly is magnificent.” Giles said, running his hand over the smooth stone of the fireplace.

“Yeah, Xan, it’s really great.” Buffy chimed in.

“Gorgeous!” was still all Willow could say.

Xander stood there and took in the sight before him: his best friends in the whole world, really the only family he’d ever had, standing here in his house being amazed at how beautiful it was. It took a moment to sink in that there were only five people standing in the room.

“Has anyone heard from Spike?” he asked, somewhat casually.

“Sorry, Xan. Last week when I called him to see if he was coming, he wouldn’t answer the phone. Trust me, he’ll pay for that – I’m planning on spending summer vacation with him.” Dawn said, looking a little sad for Xander. Willow mirrored the look, while Buffy just looked tired from the trip and Giles looked uncomfortable.

“Hey, no big. We’ll still have fun, right? We’ll have a big old fashioned Christmas, it’ll be great.” Xander said, forcing himself to be cheery. “Er, as old fashioned as you can get with a witch, former slayer and watcher, college student and a partner in a construction firm.” He laughed, along with everyone else. Felt good to him to laugh like that with his family again.

“Well, I’m sure you’re all pretty tired from your trip.” A round of nods and ughs from everyone confirmed his suspicion. “So, why don’t you all go downstairs and make yourself at home, take a nap. And when you get up, we’ll do take-out or something, okay?”

“Sounds great, Xander.” Willow said as they filed out of the room. Buffy was the last one, and on her way by she gave Xander another big hug.

“I’m sorry, Xander. I was hoping he’d be here, too,” she said gently. Xander hugged her back, and just nodded. She left Xander standing in the room, alone, watching out the window as the daylight faded and snowflakes as big as boulders began to drift to the ground.

Xander was sitting at the table in the dark kitchen, hunched over his tea and staring out the bay window when Dawn came and sat next to him, leaning over and putting her head on his shoulder.

“What’s up Dawnie?” Xander asked, leaning his head on hers.

“Nothing,” she said softly. She folded her hand into his on the table, holding it tightly. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he lied. “Just surprised, I guess. He sent a letter saying he’d be here.” He sighed bitterly but resonantly. “Anyway, let’s talk about you! How’s school going? How’s Paris? Any boys I need to beat up? Oh, you want some tea?”

“Ugh, good, all, and yes please,” she piped, grinning deeply when Xander laughed.

“Same old Dawnie.” He said, getting up and making his way to the tea kettle on the stove. He took a mug out of the cupboard, poured and returned to the table with it. Dawn took the warm mug and breathed the musty scent deep.

“Mmm, smells like honey and cinnamon, just like Spike used to make,” she said, smiling up at him.

“Yeah, well, you pine after a dead English guy and see if it doesn’t teach you a few tricks.” Xander teased, flipping the switch to the overhead lamp, flooding the room with light. He returned to his place at the table.

“Yeah, guess that’ll do it.” Willow said from the doorway, making Dawn and Xander jump a little. “Anymore of that tea? No, don’t get up, I can get it. Mugs in the cabinet above?”

Willow made her tea and sat down across from the two of them.

“So, what are you talking about?”

“Dawnie’s just bringing me up to speed on the fast-paced life of a Parisian college student. She was just about to tell me she hates it dreadfully and wants to move back here and share this big house.” Xander teased.

“Yup. That’s exactly what was happening.” Dawn said, rolling her eyes. “Seriously, things are going pretty great. Graduating in the spring, and so happy bout that. And, there’s this boy I’ve been seeing off and on.” She glared at Xander as he gave out a loud catcall. “I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think he’s human, and I’m pretty sure things are headed toward the long haul.”

“That’s great, Dawn. Happy for you, kiddo.” Xander put an arm around her shoulder, hugging her tight. “So how’s things in Willow World? Witchy slayers giving you the run around?”

“Nah, they pretty much just show up and listen to me rant about misusing magic. Couple of them actually try to learn something, though, which is always nice.” Willow chuckled and sipped at her own tea.

“Ah, not more britjuice!” Buffy hollered from where she’d snuck to the stove. “Like I don’t get enough of this back home?”

Xander, Dawn, and Willow exchanged a look and all started laughing at once. Buffy just wrinkled up her nose, and went to raid the fridge. “Got any soda or anything? Oh, yay, grape soda!”

“Would I have the legendary Buffy the Vampire Slayer in my house and not stock the fridge with grape Fanta?” Xander huffed.

“And don’t you forget it, mister,” she said, popping the tab and sitting beside Willow. “Wow, this is weird, having the gang all back together. We miss you over there, Xander. Especially me, since Willow’s blended in with the Brits.” Buffy dodged the spoon that was launched at her head.

“Missed you too, guys. Weird for me, too. Hardly ever have many people in the house, unless it’s a party for work. Nice to finally show it off to you.”

“It really is wonderful, Xander. I’m happy you’re doing so great for yourself!” Willow chimed in.

“Well, soon as Mr. I Snore So Loud Everyone Needs Ear Plugs comes down, can we get something to eat? I’m starving, and craving some grease and countless calories. Another rare treat in the Queen’s playground.”

“Actually, I thought we’d order in. There’s a great Thai restaurant in town that delivers.”

“Did someone say Thai?” Giles asked, bounding into the room. Everyone turned to find the man in flannel pj pants and a Metallica t-shirt and a new round of laughter was had. Giles just shrugged and helped himself to the tea, while Xander picked up the cordless and punched speed dial number three.

The rest of the evening passed pretty much the same, as everyone caught each other up on their lives, laughing and joking about old times and good times and bad times. Xander was really happy to know that things were going well with the new and improved Council, of which Giles presided and Buffy executed. There’s a match made in heaven, Xander thought to himself, rolling his eyes.

Xander was sitting on the floor of the studio the following morning, listening to Mozart through the sound system and sipping on a cup of coffee when Giles knocked on the door.

“Hey, G-man, what’s happening?” Xander said, folding up the newspaper he was reading and placing it on the floor beside him. He gestured for Giles to sit, which the older man declined. Instead he went to the lifeless fireplace and leaned against the stone.

“If I sit on the floor, it’ll take me a bit to get back up,” he chuckled. “I must say, Xander, your car, this house, you; it’s all quite remarkable. You must be quite proud of how far you’ve come.”

“Oh, you mean going from errand boy to a partner? Yeah, I’d say proud’s a good word for it.” He smiled.

“I’m proud of you, also, Xander. You know you’re like a son to me, and it makes me so happy to see how much you’ve grown up and taken charge of your life. How you’ve realized your potential.” Xander could almost see a tear forming in the corner of the older man’s eye. And he realized how not uncomfortable the conversation was for him.

“Thanks, Giles. Means a lot that you think that,” he said confidently, his gaze never leaving Giles’.

The two men shared a comfortable silence for a moment until Xander picked up the paper and the coffee and stood up, stretching his legs.

“Okay, G-man. How bout we go wake up the girls, grab some breakfast and go find ourselves a nice tree?” Xander said, moving towards the door and gesturing for Giles to go first.

“Sounds like plan. Oh, and Xander?”


“Don’t call me that.”

Part Two

Twilight had just barely turned into evening when he and Giles finally had the tree set up in the parlor. It’d taken them half the afternoon to find just the perfect one, and the rest of it to chop it down. But finally, after much heavy breathing and many pulled muscles, they’d gotten it through the door and onto the stand. Xander was again thankful he had such high ceilings because this was one large Christmas tree.

He’d just finished bringing in all eight boxes of Christmas decorations and opening them up for the girls to go through when there was a knock at the door.

“Huh, that’s weird,” he said out loud. No one seemed to notice while they pulled strands of lights and garland and tinsel out of the different boxes. He quietly left the room and made his way to the front door. He opened it to reveal a slender blonde in a long black leather duster wearing the sexiest smirk Xander had ever seen.

“Merry Christmas, pet.” Spike said, his smirk growing to a smile.

“I, I, I, uh-” Xander stammered, just staring at Spike. Taking in and absorbing how incredibly gorgeous he was. The same ice-blue eyes, the same pale pink lips open to reveal perfect white teeth. The duster and the Docs were there, as they would always be, but Spike was wearing a blue v-neck sweater that matched his eyes perfectly, and dark, but not black, jeans. He’d let the platinum spikes grow out, and now his hair was very curly and somewhere between brown and blonde. He just looked gorgeous, and Xander couldn’t quite remember how to breathe at the moment.

“Spike!” Dawn squealed, making everyone hold their hands to their ears. She ran into his open arms, almost knocking him over. She was followed by Willow and even Buffy as everyone ran to the door, happy to see the long lost vampire. Giles extended his hand, greeting him warmly.

Then, as one, everyone turned to see Xander still clutching the door knob, staring wide eyed and open mouthed at the latest arrival. Xander was trying to remember, trying to think of what he was supposed to be saying, what he should be doing.

“Xander, pet, you alright?” Spike asked, concern wavering in his deep voice. Xander nodded, his mouth still hanging open.

Willow stretched on her toes and pulled Xander down to whisper in his ear. “Then maybe you should invite him inside.” She used a finger to close his mouth as she pulled away, almost in hysterics. Buffy and Dawn were trying to hold back their laughter as well, and Giles only blushed and shook his head. They all fled the room, and Xander could hear the four of them burst into tears of laughter from the kitchen.

“I, I, I, uh, S-Spike, come in,” he managed to choke out.

“Don’t mind if I do, love.” And Spike did just that, taking the door from Xander, and closing it behind him. With Xander’s eyes glued to him, he shed his duster and hung it on a nearby coat rack, dropping two suitcases next to it. He took off his Doc Martins, which looked new, and piled them on top of the mountain of others.

“Xander, Xander are you okay?” Spike asked, coming within inches of the human-turned-deer caught in the headlights. He slowly, gently, reached out his hands and placed them Xander’s shoulders.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m okay.” Xander finally snapped out his trance and realized his face was hot, either from embarrassment, or something else. “I’m just, wow. I didn’t think you were coming…”

“I sent you that letter, didn’t I? Do you know how hard it is to get night flights all the way over here? Course I’m here, pet. Wouldn’t miss it.” Spike’s grasp on Xander’s shoulders turned into a hug. At first, Xander stiffened, and finally relaxed and returned the embrace.

“I, I’m glad you came, Spike. Wouldn’t be the same without you.” The two men pulled away, slow and reluctant.

“Thanks, Xander. It means a lot that…well, you know…” Spike dropped his gaze to the floor, toeing the hardwood slightly.

“Yeah, I know. Listen, Spike, about – ”

“Xander, can we, not? Not now? Well talk about it later, alright, love? Let’s just enjoy being here now, and go in and catch up with the girls and Rupert, okay?” Spike lifted his head confidently, daring Xander to challenge his request. Xander could only nod, and he silently led him back to the kitchen which had grown suspiciously quiet the last few minutes.

Xander pushed on the swinging door, only to have it bounce back to him. He heard a round of “ow!”s and “shhh” and “they’re coming”s as he tried the door once more, successfully entering the kitchen this time. The three girls and Giles were all sitting at the table, hands folded innocently in front them, seemingly unaware that there had been a problem with the door.

“Christ, you people need to work on your Lucy ‘n Ethel routine a little more.” Spike said, rolling his eyes. The not-so-innocent inhabitants of the kitchen just looked at each other and started laughing all over again.

Two hours later found them in the parlor again, four empty pizza boxes burning in the fireplace, and an empty bottle of Moscato D’Asti on the serving tray on the coffee table. An as-yet undecorated Christmas tree towered over the group.

“Xander, you got any tea in this mansion?” Spike asked from where he was curled deep into the leather couch, his arm wrapped around Dawn. “Haven’t had a good cuppa since I dropped in on the ‘Bit last winter.”

Xander, who had finally regained his mastery of the English language, nodded and stood up from where he was lying on the floor.

“Yeah, you got me hooked on the stuff, remember?” he said, grabbing the tray off the coffee table.

“Yup, he’s a regular tea junkie.” Willow chimed in, also sliding from her chair. “Keep telling him he should come back to London with us. But nooo…” She rolled her eyes and picked up all the empty wine glasses. “Here, Xan, I’ll help.”

“Sounds good.” Xander said, reflecting Spike’s smile. He almost dropped the tray, backing out of the room.

“So, Spike, what’s with the new do?” Xander heard Buffy ask as he made his way into the kitchen, quickly followed by a very excited Willow.

“Well!?” She asked the minute the door closed.

“Well, what?” Xander asked, setting the tray down on the island and carrying the bottle to the recycling bin under the cabinet by the door.

“Don’t play coy with me, Xander Harris!” Willow exclaimed, placing the glasses in the sink, eyeing Xander as he brought the tea kettle to the faucet and switched it on.

“Well…I don’t know, Wills. I just, don’t know,” he supplied truthfully with a shrug.

“Xander, have I mentioned that Resolve Face only gets more powerful with age?” She sounded serious, and when Xander glanced over, he noticed that Resolve Face was in place, ready to fire. He cringed, turning off the water and turning to the stove.

He placed the kettle over the flame, trying to avoid the look at all costs.

“Okay, Wills, okay. I honestly don’t know what to make of it. Can you grab the teapot and the cups out of that cupboard over there?” He pointed. She looked at him for a moment longer, but retrieved the items anyway, placing them on the tray.

“Well, do you think he still…feels like he used to? I mean, before, you know,” she asked, going to the refrigerator to get milk and a lemon.

“I don’t know, I really don’t. And it’s driving me crazy.” He sighed, crossing the kitchen to where he kept the tea and the other ingredients. “I just wish I could read minds sometimes, you know?”

“No, Xander, trust me, you don’t. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Willow said, taking a seat on one of the barstools at the island. She grabbed a knife from the butcher’s rack and began slicing the lemon.

“When did you ever – oh, right.” Xander looked at Willow, who for just a moment looked so sad, remembering everything she’d done. “Anyway, I just wish I knew what to do. But, I guess we’re going to talk about it later.”

“Oooo, later, huh? Before or after the good old horizontal mambo?” she retorted, grinning widely.

“Willow, dear god! I think those Brits are a bad influence on you!” Xander laughed, pulling the kettle off the stove just as it began to whistle. He poured some water into the pot to warm it, and replaced the kettle on the stove, turning the dial to low. “And anyway, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen again. Not that I’d be opposed to it, but I really fucked things up, Wills. I don’t know if he’s forgiven me yet, or if he ever will. Wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.”

“Xander, stop that right now. It was a really long time ago, and it wasn’t your fault they…that it happened the way it did.” Xander held her gaze and after a moment she wavered. “Okay, alright, maybe a small part of it was, but Xander, why would anyone think you could have saved them? Not that you can’t save the world, but come on, there were dragons and scary clown people and all kinds of bad stuff. You could have gotten killed!”

“I know, Willow, I know. I just can’t help but think that maybe I could have saved them, or helped them, or something. Instead I stayed here. Either way, I did lie to him and he’s still right.”

He finished putting all the ingredients and tea into the pot, adding the water. While the tea did its magic, he pulled the spoons from the drawer and put them on the tray and poured the milk into the dish, capping it and returning it to the fridge.

“But, so? So what? If I’ve learned anything, Xander, it’s that no matter what happens, you don’t stop loving someone.” Willow got up from the table and came around to hug him. He hugged her back tightly, wondering if she was right.

They let go of each other after a moment, and he strained the leaves out of the tea and put the lid on, checking to make sure everything was right. She held the door open as he carried the tray of goodies out to his family.

“…and I said to the daft git, ‘If I ever see your ugly face around here again, I will tell your mum!’” Spike finished his story as Buffy and Dawn exploded in laughter for the nth time that night.

Spike and Xander’s eyes met as he set the tray back on the coffee table, pouring tea for everyone. Xander eventually looked away, feeling the awkwardness of lovers gone astray after a few moments.

Once more, everyone remarked on the tea. Even Buffy, with her “no tea for life! diet,” sipped at it, saying that it wasn’t “all that bad.”

“S’good, pet. Taught you well, I did.” Xander noticed that Spike’s eyes had a far-away look to them, as if he was back there again. But he came back quickly enough. “So, how bout we throw some tinsel on this thing and be done with it, yeah?”

Dawn was the first person to bound over the unexplored boxes. Eventually the older members of the group struggled to their feet. As everyone began digging into the boxes, Xander went to the wall switch and turned on the music system, pumping Christmas oldies through every room in the house.

“Everyone ready?” Xander asked, hand poised on the light switch.

“Come on, Xander, I wanna see it!” Dawn whined.

“Yeah, Xander, hurry up!” Willow was bouncing by the fireplace.

“Okay, here we go!” he said, flicking the switch and plunging the parlor into dingy firelight. “Spike, plug it in.”

A moment later, the room was filled with light once again as the Christmas tree glowed to life. There were so many lights on it, Xander flashed back to watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where the electricity meter spun fast enough to break. But, he had to admit, it was beautiful.

A murmur of “oh”s and “wow”s and gasps rolled through the room as everyone took in the splendor of their work.

“Tree pretty.” Buffy said in her best four year old voice.

“Beautiful.” Willow whispered, tears glistening in the corner of her eyes. Xander came up behind her and hugged her. “Remember the first time I came over to your house to help decorate the tree, Xander?”

“How could I forget? We ate all of Santa’s cookies and had to leave club crackers instead,” he remembered. Willow giggled.

“That seems like so long ago.” She turned in his arms and hugged him back.

“Was a long time ago, Willow. We were, what, eight?” She shrugged in his arm, and let go.

“Dear, when did it get so late?” Giles asked, looking at his watch. Xander glanced at the clock on the mantle and gawked to find it was almost three o’clock.

“Time flies when you’re having fun?” he offered.

“Quite right, I suppose. But, I think I’m going to retire; this Englishman is beat.”

“I know I could go for some Z’s.” Dawn said, hugging and linking her arm with Willow, the two following the Watcher into the foyer.

“Here, Xander, I’ll help you with the dishes.” Buffy offered, moving to pick up the tray.

“Nah, don’t worry about it, Buff. You’re practically falling asleep standing up.” He laughed as she yawned twice in a row.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right. Sure you don’t want help?”

“Yeah, it’s cool. I think I’m just gonna rinse ‘em out tonight, I’ll clean them tomorrow while you girls are shopping.” He went to her, kissing her on the forehead. She smiled and hugged him tight, making her exit too.

Spike was still standing in front of the tree, his gaze again in that far off place. Didn’t seem to notice everyone had gone to bed.

“You okay, Spike?” he asked, not getting to close to the vampire.

“Hmm? Oh, sure, I’m fine, pet. Was just remembering that Christmas you had me tied up in that chair in that damned basement. Made me listen to you sing at the top of your lungs while you decorated that dinky little plank of wood.” Spike turned and looked at Xander, the glow of fire refracting and reflecting in those golden blue eyes.

“Wow. You remember that?” Xander asked, dropping his gaze, and turning to pick up the tray.

“Course I do. Was my first Christmas since 1892, wasn’t it?” Spike snorted. “My first Christmas with you,” he added, barely above a whisper.

“Hmph. Guess it was, wasn’t it? Even if you were tied to a chair.” He smiled, remembering how they used to bicker.

“You were right, you know.” Spike asked, following as Xander made his way back to the kitchen.

“Bout what, Spike?”

“You are a nummy treat.” Spike whispered, his mouth inches from Xander’s ear, almost causing the human to drop the tray of expensive china.

“I, I, uh,” he stammered.

“Funny, all this money, pretty house, great life, and you still can’t speak bloody English when you get worked up.” Spike teased, slipping around Xander to hold open the kitchen door.

“Can so! Just, apparently, not around you,” he said truthfully, setting the tray on the island. He quickly rinsed out the pot and the cups as Spike stood near the door, eyes glued on Xander.

“Are you happy, Xan?” he asked, quietly but confidently.

“That’s a hard question, Spike.” Xander replied, shutting off the water and flicking the light over the stove on in case someone got thirsty in the night.

“Shouldn’t be, Xander. Rather simple, I should think. Yes or no.” Spike switched the overhead light off as they made their way out of the room and to the foyer, checking windows and closing drapes along the way.

“Spike,” Xander said, locking and dead bolting the front door. “How long have you known me? Nothing with me is simple.” He switched off the chandelier and turned to find Spike already on the stairs, waiting for him.

The light from the still blazing Christmas tree drifted in from the parlor, casting shadows and a stained glass aura on the vampire. Xander drew a breath, as he absorbed the vision before him. He joined Spike on the stairs, and began ascending, almost but not quite touching the vampire.

“Not so, pet. I think you’re more simple than you know.” Spike said once they reached the second floor hallway.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Xander asked, turning to open the door to his bedroom. He heard Spike take an involuntary breath upon entering the room, looking around at the plush furnishings.

“I think you know. I think you’ve always known.” Spike stopped and turned to face Xander, both men unsure of what to say or do next.

“Uh, well, this is my room. But, I’m out of bedrooms, so you can have it. I’m going to go upstairs to the studio for a bit anyway.” Xander said softly after a moment.

Spike just shrugged, but Xander could’ve sworn he looked almost hurt as he closed the door on his way out, leaving Spike alone in the room.

Xander made his way up to the studio, collapsing into the arm chair facing the west windows, the only piece of furniture in the room so far. Eventually when he finished the room, he would turn it into a real studio. But for now, he liked it the way it was.

It wasn’t long before he took the blanket off the back, brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped himself in the warm flannel.

He soon fell asleep, his dreams taking him back in time to that night over four years ago when his world came crashing in on him. The last time he’d ever seen Spike.

Ever since Spike had rejoined the land of corporeal, him and Xander had taken turns visiting each other. Xander would go to L.A. one weekend, Spike to Montana the next. Xander finally told Spike his feelings for the vampire and was surprised to find that he shared them.

They fell into a natural cycle of detesting the separation but loving the time spent together even more. Spike hadn’t told the L.A. gang because, as he’d said to Xander, “Don’t want anything to happen to you, love. They wouldn’t hurt you, but there are plenty of people who would. Don’t want it to, pet. Love you.”

This suited Xander quite well, considering his renewed life in the construction industry. He had a small, though nice, apartment in town. He had a beat-up old car, but it got him where he needed to go, so who cared? The biggest change in Xander’s life, though, besides Spike, was his new anti-demon lifestyle.

After Sunnydale was finally finished and the Scoobies had went their separate ways, Xander decided his white-hat days were over. If he encountered someone in trouble, he wouldn’t think twice about helping. But, he’d decided, he was done going out and looking for the bad guys. After growing up in Sunnydale and then losing everything, he wanted nothing more than a normal life. Or rather, as normal as anyone who was loving with a Vampire turned ghost turned vampire who had saved the world.

All was well and good. When Spike came to town, there was no talk of demons or patrolling. The two would stay up all night and day and talk about books and movies and their pasts. Xander had never been happier and Spike confessed the same.

Seemed they spoke every day, and the running joke was that they’d do anything for each other. “Do anything for you, pet. Except move to bleedin’ Montana, love.” Spike would tease, only to be countered with “Me too, bleached wonder. Well, except move into the same town as Deadboy.”

Everything had been great, going well. The Scoobies eventually found out by way of Spike’s big mouth, but even they had been okay with it after a while. For a few months, it seemed like everything was perfect. They each had their own separate lives without the pressure of someone being there all the time. But when they were together, they never left the other’s sight. Practically never got out of bed.

But then Wolfram and Heart stepped in. Putting pressure on Angel, trying to destroy the L.A. group. Setting up Fred’s death and Gunn’s tragedy, seemingly turning Angel against them. Wes’ slow deterioration to the bottle. With the exception of Cordy, none of these people meant anything to Xander, but the loss was destroying Spike.

Spike had called Xander one night, crying softly into the phone. The sound of Spike in pain ripped Xander’s heart apart. He asked Xander to come to L.A. and help them in the battle; they needed all the help they could get.

“…doesn’t look good, pet.” Spike said, voice low and hoarse.

“Spike…I can’t.” Xander replied, pain creeping into his own voice.


“Spike, you know – you know I can’t do that. You know I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.”

“Are you bloody serious, Xander? What do you mean you can’t? You fought for how many years with the Slayer. Now you’re turning your back on us? On me?”

“Spike, don’t fight. Come here and stay with me.”

“Can’t do that, Xander. This is my family. Even the ponce. I can’t let them die without putting up a fight. Can’t run and hide. Please, pet, I need you.” Spike’s voice sounded so harsh, so haunted.

“I just can’t, Spike. I’ve lost too much already. My life…it’s finally good, Spike. Please don’t ask me to-”

“Fine, Xander. I don’t know why I thought you’d give up your precious ‘good life’ to save the world. Not like you’ve ever done it before, right? Not like you give a shit about the people I love.”

“That’s not fair, Spike. You know I’ve lost people. I’ve put in my fair share of fighting time, you know that!” Xander had started shouting into the phone. Spike’s harsh words were tearing him apart.

“Know what, Xander, just don’t. Good bye, whelp.” Spike said, venom strained through gritted teeth.

“Spike, wait -” The phone went dead, the connection severed. Xander dropped the phone, collapsing to the floor. He didn’t move for days and cried his weight in tears. Roger finally came by because he’d been worried when Xander hadn’t shown up for work.

He’d put Xander in bed and forced him to eat and rest. Hadn’t left for a couple days himself.

A week later there was a knock at the door. Xander had opened it to find a very broken and very battered Spike. He was leaning on a crutch under his right arm, his face was one big bruise, swollen and purple. Xander hadn’t seen him this beat up since Glory had gotten her hands on him.

He went to hug the vampire, but Spike held up his hand, gesturing for him to keep his distance.

“I had no where else to go, Harris,” he said. The words were like missiles launched at Xander’s chest. “Can I stay here until I’m well enough to travel?”

Xander had said nothing as tears welled up in his eyes all over again. He nodded and opened the door wider, allowing Spike to enter.

For eleven days, Xander could remember counting them, neither man spoke to the other. Spike slept in the living room, refusing to sleep in Xander’s bed, with or without Xander in it.

Xander made sure there was plenty of blood in the refrigerator and that the apartment was warm with plenty of blankets. For the most part, he tried to stay out of Spike’s way, feeling as if maybe his lover would forgive him if only he had time alone.

On the twelfth day, a short while before sunset, Spike finally spoke.

“Xander, I’m leaving tonight.” Spike muttered, pulling on his boots.

Xander quickly felt all the blood rush from his head as dizziness set in. He sat in the nearest chair he could find, opposite to Spike. When the tea cups in his head stopped spinning, he found Spike looking at him. His eyes were so dark they were almost black, and Xander remembered the last time he’d seen them this color.

“Wh-what? Spike?” He managed to choke back the scream in his chest and rein in the tears that wanted desperately to flow.

“They’re dead, Xander.” Spike dropped his gaze to the floor, his hands shaking as he reached into his duster and pulled out his smokes. He could barely light it because he was trembling so horridly.

“You mean-”

“They’re gone. They didn’t survive the…war. Even Angel’s dust. I’m all that’s left,” was all Spike could say.

“Spike, I’m so sorry.” Xander replied, getting up from his chair and crossing to where Spike sat, only to be pushed away as Spike got up.

“Whatever, Xander. S’not like you care anyway. You lied to me, Xander.”

“What? No, no I didn’t, Spike. I love you,” he whispered.

“S’not that, pet. You said you would do anything. But when I needed you most, you wouldn’t come. You wouldn’t come and now they’re gone. My family’s dead. They’re gone and you lied to me.”

Xander got up and went to Spike, only to be pushed away yet again. He wouldn’t let Xander touch him, and that hurt worse than anything.

“I have to go now.” Spike murmured.

“Spike?” Xander half whispered. “Spike, no.”

“Toss off, you git!” Spike screamed at Xander. “You lied to me, and I’m nothing if not a man of honor. I can’t tolerate that, Xander. Not when the stakes are so high. Not when the people I love…are gone. Just bloody can’t.” Spike shrugged on his duster and made his way to the door. He had it half open when Xander grabbed his arm, tears in his eyes and streaming down his cheeks.

“Spike, I didn’t lie. I meant what I said. I’ll do anything for you.” Xander had to choke back the sobs between his words. “I love you Spike, please don’t leave me. Please, Spike.”

“See you around, Harris.” Venom in those final words.

Spike slammed the door behind him for the last time. Xander never saw him again.

Part Three

Xander woke with a start, surprised to find bright sunlight cascading in through the windows. He sat for a moment, still huddled into a ball on the chair, reflecting on the dream. He’d had the dream many times since that night, but never had he woken up with such intense and fresh pain. It felt as if it had been only last night when Spike had left him.

After a few moments, the pain subsided along with the sharpness of the memory. He heard the clock on the second floor strike ten o’clock and realized he’d slept much later than he should have; he’d promised he’d drive the girls into town to the mall and take them out to lunch.

He knocked on Willow’s bedroom door and opened it, only to find it empty. The same with Buffy, Dawn, and Giles. He paused at his bedroom door, not sure whether to knock, go in, or pass by.

He settled for knocking, and after a few moments with no answer, he entered to find it empty as well. Just as well, he figured, he needed to take a shower.

Once showered and shaved and had donned a fresh pair of jeans and a sweater, he made his way to the kitchen. Half way down the stairs, he smelled coffee wafting through the house.

He entered the kitchen to find all the blinds and drapes still drawn tight. Spike was standing at the stove wearing an apron. An oven mitt clad hand held a spatula, the other hand rested on his hip. Xander had to fight back his laughter.

“Morning, Martha,” he said quietly, crossing over to the coffee pot, reveling in the strong scent.

“Fuck off, mate. Tryin to do something nice, here.” Spike said without glancing up, flipping a piece of French toast.

“Ooo, breakfast, huh?” Xander grinned, resting against the island, sipping his coffee and watching Spike. “Where are Giles and the girls?”

“Oh, they went out shopping. Er, the girls went shopping and Giles said something about hanging himself with last year’s spaghetti strap on sale for 75 percent off.” Spike shrugged.

“I was going to take them, why didn’t anyone wake me up?” Xander rounded the island and sat at one of the stools, enjoying the sight of Spike making breakfast for him.

“You were up there sawing logs so loud, even they could hear you. I found your keys and gave ‘em to Giles. Told ‘em to get lost and let you sleep.” Spike turned off the oven and pulled out what smelled like cinnamon rolls. “Do me a favor, get some plates and stuff.”

Xander complied, pulling two plates and forks and knives from their place, placing them on the table across from each other. He poured himself another cup of coffee and sat down. He was joined a moment later by Spike carrying a plate of French toast and bacon in one hand, a plate of rolls in the other.

“Didn’t have to. Don’t get much sleep lately anyway.” Xander mumbled. Spike paused and looked at him pointedly, but said nothing. “Besides, I told them I’d take everyone out for lunch. Figured you’d be asleep, anyway. You know, daytime and whatnot.”

“Normally I would be, pet, but it’s nighttime in Greece right now. Still not adjusted to the time difference. Come on, dig in.”

They did just that, gorging themselves on the feast of rolls and toast and bacon. They talked about everything that had been going on in their lives, but neither one brought up what they both wanted to talk about.

It was little after noon when Xander helped Spike carry the dishes to the sink, finding it empty. “Did you do that?” he asked, wondering what happened to the tea set.

“Yeah. Figured I might as well. Nothing else for me to do.” Spike shrugged.

“Oh, I heard about that. Sorry Passions was cancelled.” Xander teased.

“Oi, mate!” Spike exclaimed, punching Xander playfully in the arm.

Again, they talked about anything but them as they rinsed off the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They laughed about things back in Sunnydale and talked about how things were in Europe and here in Montana. But nothing substantial, nothing important.

Eventually they found themselves sitting next to each other on the couch in the quickly darkening parlor, legs crossed and facing each other, knees just slightly touching each other’s. They’d run out of things to say and now an awkward silence grew between them.

“Pet, how long can we go without talking about it?” Spike asked softly, looking into Xander’s eyes.

“Uh, guess that was about it, huh?” Xander replied, looking down at his lap where his hands were fidgeting with the hem of his sweater. “Spike, I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Won’t lie, pet. I was mad, very mad, for a long time.” Spike’s voice was calm and sweetly low, the baritone notes plucking at Xander’s heart like a violin.

“I know,” was all he could offer.

“Couldn’t forgive you. Couldn’t let it go that I’d lost everyone and everything important to me. Couldn’t stand that I’d lost you.” It was Spike’s turn to lower his head.

“And you shouldn’t, Spike. I don’t think I could if it was the other way around. I let you down. And, and, people were hurt…killed…because of it. I understand, Spike. I get why you left. I want you know…I don’t blame you for it. Wish things had been different, but I can’t say I don’t understand why you left.”

“Good.” Spike said softly. At that, Xander looked up to see that Spike was gazing at him, his eyes wet and evanescent. “Because I needed you to understand.”

“Oh, yeah.” Funny how Xander could speak at all, as tightly as his throat was congested; that he could see through the veil of tears he refused to loose. He bowed his head once more.

“But I let it go, pet.” Xander perked his head up to see that Spike really was crying now, tears streaking down his pale face. But he was smiling through the tears.

“What do you mean, Spike?” Xander hadn’t meant to whisper, but it was all he could do.

“I know, Xander. Know why you didn’t come. Don’t blame you, love. Actually glad you didn’t come. If you would have, you wouldn’t be here today. You’d be gone…like them.”

Xander’s heart stopped beating and his lungs ceased to pump. The room faded out of his sight, and there was only one vampire, one broken and aching man in the entire world. The two of them had drifted off into their own realm of existence, it seemed to Xander.

“What are you saying, Spike?” Hope blossoming in his chest, fighting against the devastation.

“Xander, love, the last four years. I’ve been alone. I lost nearly everything important to me. There was one person in the whole world left who still knew me, still loved me. And I hurt you. Shouldn’t have left you, pet. Shouldn’t have hurt you. Shouldn’t have asked you to come when I knew you couldn’t.” Spike was sobbing now, drawing great gulps of air. The sound of his ragged liquid breaths made Xander’s heart break even more. But he still wasn’t sure what this meant, what he should say or do.

“Spent the last four years loving you, pet. The last four years I’ve been wanting you so bad. Just wanting your touch and to know that you loved me. Missed you so much, pet. I almost…I almost gave up a couple of times, Xander. Almost gave up and joined Angelus. But then I thought of you. You’re the reason I wanted to die, and the reason I want to live. Xander, love, I’m so sorry. So fuckin sorry, pet. Please forgive me. Please just love me, Xander.” Spike’s sobbing grew worse, making his voice come in coughs and gags. Each one was another dagger to Xander.

“Spike? Spike, look at me, love.” Xander nudged Spike’s chin with his palm, dying inside once again when he saw such raw pain and self-loathing on the creature’s face. “Spike, we’re both idiots. You have no idea how many nights I haven’t been able to sleep, thinking about you and Angel and everyone you lost. Spike, I should have gone. I killed those people by not coming. I let you down. It’s me that should be apologizing, not you.” Xander was joining in the sobs, the tears running down his cheeks like a desert flood.

“Love you, pet. Love you so much. Want you so much now, so much. Why don’t we forgive each other and get over this?” Spike’s cries had calmed a level or two, while Xander’s had risen.

He could only nod and mouth agreement as Spike flung himself forward, pulling Xander to him and crushing him to his body. Spike wrapped his arms around Xander tightly, expelling any chance for the human to breathe properly.

Xander nuzzled into Spike’s neck, letting the tears and sobs ebb and flow. He let loose four long years of pain and hatred and rage and longing. He let it all out, held steadfastly in the arms of the man he loved more than anything he’d ever known.

The two lay there like that for what seemed like hours, entangled in each other, needing the contact and the bond that now seemed as if it never was broken. Each of them whispered meaningless words that were packed with more emotion and more meaning than they’d ever realized. To both it seemed as if, once again, they had a reason to remain alive; it seemed as if they were full again, no longer empty shells of people lost so long ago.

Xander and Spike were woken up by a very loud, high pitched obnoxious “squeeeeeeeeeee!” Xander practically fell off the couch, jumping as he did at the intruding noise. Spike, too, had slipped unconsciously into gameface, growling deeply at the would-be predator.

“Oh my God, guys, you have to come see this! It’s so cute!” Dawn screamed at the others, bouncing in place not three feet from the couch. Both Xander and Spike rolled their eyes, but they grinned proudly as well.

“Dawnie, what are you screaming abou-ooohhh.” Willow hollered, joining them in the room. “Awwww.”

“Bloody hell you morons. Just takin a nap.” Spike said, his voice coming through crystal clear around now-human teeth.

“Whoa, Xander, Spike. Do we need to, uh, give you some more time alone?” Buffy teased as she joined in the fun.

“Yes,” Spike said shamelessly.

“No,” Xander exclaimed at the same time. “I mean, why don’t you guys head to the kitchen? Be there in a sec and we can fix dinner.”

“Uh huh, a ‘sec’, huh?” Buffy, ever the Prima Donna of tactful sarcasm, chimed. “Come on, let’s let them, uh, finish their ‘nap.’” Buffy said, using air quotes and becoming red in the face from not laughing out loud.

With that, Buffy, Willow and Dawn left Spike and Xander to their own devices, as they retreated to the kitchen. Xander could have sworn he heard Dawn say “hot” and Buffy shush her while Willow only giggled.

“So, pet, have a nice snooze?” Spike asked, his voice rich as velvet in Xander’s ear. Xander looked back down at the vampire whose arms were still clasped tightly around him. Their gaze locked together once more.

“Best sleep I’ve had in long time, Spike. Missed that. Missed you.” Xander whispered, leaning down, his lips hovering just slightly above Spike’s.

“Not as much as I did, pet.” Spike ran one hand up Xander’s back, causing the human to shiver, and took hold of his neck, closing the gap between their lips.

For each of them, the deep cataclysm of the kiss was something old and something new. It was familiar, as if it had always been, yet at the same time new territory never before explored. They lost themselves in that exploration and that search for memories of what once was. Forgot themselves and knew only them, each other. Knew only the flesh against flesh, scorching heat against burning cold. They never wanted to stop.

“Ehem,” Giles cleared his throat loudly, stopping them. They turned in unison to glare at the intruder, who shifted his weight from foot to foot, looking rather uncomfortable.

“Sod off, mate, we’re snogging, here.” Spike muttered, turning Xander’s face back to his to continue the exploration.

“I trust, then, that you two are…back?” Giles asked timidly.

Neither man spoke, but Xander pulled his hand out from between them, giving Giles the thumbs up sign. Spike did the same, however it was a different finger he used. The Watcher, Xander saw from the corner of his eye, turned on his heel and left the room rather quickly.

“We should get up, Spike.” Xander said a few minutes later, his lips swollen and blood red.

“Now why should we do that, pet?” Spike asked, running his hands up and down Xander’s back, causing the human to elicit several small moans.

“Because. We. Shouldn’t. Leave. Them. Alone.” Xander managed between more kisses, feeling as if he could never get enough of them.

“Not alone, they’ve got each other.” Spike pointed out, laughing softly when Xander rolled his eyes at him.

After a few more minutes of “snogging,” Xander pried himself off of and away from the vampire, standing up and stretching. Spike didn’t take his eyes off of him for moment. Xander reached out a hand to help him up, pulling him into another tight hug and deep kiss.

Eventually they made it to the kitchen which was full of snickering, giggling, and blushing.

The evening found them once again in the parlor, a fire snapping and coughing in the fireplace, the glowing Christmas tree rivaling any creation of Picasso, tea and wine being drank, talking of the old Sunnydale days and remembering things lost to them.

A night just like the previous, save for one thing. Spike and Xander sat together on the couch, hands folded together, fingers knitted, Xander with his head on Spike’s shoulder. Xander had never grinned wider than when he realized that this was what Christmas was about.

It was nearly one o’clock when Xander heard a knock at the studio door. Again the room was dark, save for the dancing firelight reflected all around him.

“Come in,” he called, knowing who it was before they entered. His suspicion was confirmed when he turned from his place on the floor to find Spike’s framed draped against the open door. He grinned, turning back to face the fireplace.

“S’matter, love?” Spike asked gently, as Xander heard the door close and the lock click into place.

“Nothing,” he answered truthfully. “Just thinking, that’s all.”

“Bout what, pet?” Smooth as silk voice at his ear, strong hands kneading his shoulders.

“Bout you and me, us. Everything.” Xander admitted. “Thankful to have you back, hating that it took so long, happy to be loved.”

“S’lot to think about, Xander.” Spike whispered, hands roaming from shoulders to chest, lips from ear to lips.

Xander sank back into the hard body behind him, pressing back against the cool cotton of Spike’s lips.

“Missed you, Spike. So glad you’re back here with me. Don’t leave me again, please? Please, don’t leave me.” Whispers and kisses seemed as if they were the language between the two men.

“Gonna have to, pet.” Spike said, feeling Xander’s body turn to stone in his arms. “Gotta go back to get my car.” Laughter as Xander again melted into him.

“You and that damned Desoto.” Xander teased, yipping as lips and tongue worked at his throat. “L-leave it, I’ll buy you a new one.” Spike only hummed his reply, causing Xander to arch his back at the instant pleasure.

Xander turned on his knees to face Spike, leaning forward and pulling him into another searching, needing kiss. Their tongues met, dancing silently and restlessly. Xander cupped Spike’s chin and sighed into the vampire’s mouth as Spike’s hands began to roam over his chest and arms, stopping briefly to tug on the human’s nipples, eliciting more squeaks and moans of pleasure.

Xander’s hands sank to Spike’s hip, slowly grazing down the vampire’s statuesque chest. His trembling fingers fumbled but succeeded in popping the first button through its loop, followed by one than two more.

Spike gently pushed him back so he was leaning on his elbows, taking advantage of the position by grinding his pelvis into the human’s. Again, Xander found Spike’s mouth on his neck, suckling and licking, kissing and nipping as the vampire slowly ground their jean clad lengths together. Xander returned the favor, nuzzling at first but then tasting and sucking at Spike’s neck, causing him to rock into him harder, faster.

Xander reached between them, plunging his hands into Spike’s crotch, feeling and caressing the hardness there, pulling softly. Spike reached and pulled his t-shirt up and over his head, repeating the action to Xander. Again he came down on top of the human, cold flesh meeting warm, both bodies quaking at the ying-yang contact.

Xander pushed Spike back, lowering the black jeans and freeing the stone cock. He bobbed his head, licking along the length of Spike’s shaft, one hand wandering over Spike’s chest, the other gently pulling on the tight flesh of his balls. He swirled his tongue over the head, grinning inwardly at the loud gasp Spike made, loving that he could make a vampire breathe again. At last he took the length into his mouth, more and more until he felt the down of Spike’s soft hair at his nose and cheeks. He held it there for a moment, savoring the taste and feel of the organ there.

Reluctantly, he let it out, only to repeat the motion, sucking gently, again and again, each time circling his tongue around the sensitive crown of Spike’s cock. The vampire was no longer gasping but pleading for unneeded breath, his hands gripping fiercely on Xander’s shoulders, fingers digging into flesh.

Xander released the cock and was pulled into another achingly violent kiss, Spike’s hands now doing what had been done to him. Xander squeezed his eyes tight and ceased to breath as he felt hands of ice grip his smoldering cock, stroking once, then twice, twisting slightly, and repeating the action.

He felt himself being pushed onto his back as Spike again lowered himself on top of the human, kicking off his jeans. Licking and nibbling his way from ear to throat to collar and nipple, sending tiny bottle rockets of pleasure through Xander. One nipple and than the other sucked and pinched and rubbed, making Xander writhe as if in seizure.

Spike made his way slowly, so slowly to where he was still pumping, replacing fist with fissure, pulling Xander’s cock into his mouth at once, tearing his jeans off recklessly, impatient for what he’d waited for for so long. As he slowly dipped and weaved his head around and up and down on the human’s cock, he touched with one hand every piece of flesh he could, while the other trickled to find Xander’s hole, teasing and stroking it with one slick finger.

Slower still, it entered Xander gently, pressing and forcing, stretching as the human begged and cried for more. Two fingers, searching and stretching yet more, as Xander’s body tensed again, telling Spike that he had found that spot. One last finger, slowly pushing and pulling while he continued to bob and weave upon Xander’s rock hard cock, and at last they were ready.

Spike grabbed Xander’s ankles, pushing his legs up so that his knees touched chest, enjoying the view of the passion-bridled mortal needing him so much, wanting him so badly.

One hard and furious thrust, and he was buried deep inside, hips slamming against ass, an audible smack and an even louder scream from both of them as they each felt Spike’s cock sear against that spot. Spike glided gently out and slammed back in, nearly screaming again at the sight of Xander’s good eye roll back in ecstasy. Again and again he repeated the tenacious pull and push, increasing speed and need, harder and faster with every thrust as Xander bucked his hips to meet each one. Xander’s hands were made of steel, cuffing Spike’s wrists as he bounced and glided to meet each ferocious push.

Sweat flowed like a river from Spike’s temple, pooling onto Xander’s stomach, splattering on the bare wood they lie on. One more look at Xander’s face, his mouth open and sucking for air, and Spike knew he couldn’t last much longer.

“Xander, love!” he howled as he pushed in once more, exploding, eyes tied tightly shut, feeling everything within him expel into the human, cool and warmth again meeting and melting together.

He opened his eyes just in time to see Xander’s cock burst of its own accord, spewing the milky liquid all over his chest and shoulders, the floor beside and around him. A geyser that seemed as if it would never cease to flow, but at last the tide subsided and tapered to only a pearl drop of liquid, dangling from Xander’s cock.

Spike heaved one last breath before wrenching himself free and collapsing on the spent human. Xander wrapped his arms tightly around the vampire, again seeking out the cool embrace and joining of lips. Eventually his breathing returned to normal and his heart no longer felt as if it might just suddenly stop.

“Spike,” he managed to breathe after minutes of rest, “that was…oh God did I miss that!”

“You’ve no idea, pet.” Spike whispered into his ear, sending yet more shivers through Xander’s body. “No idea at all.”

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve jerked off wanting that? Wishing you were in me?”

“Probly not as much as me, love. We’ve got lots of catching up to do.” Spike said, his cock already stirring back to life. He could feel Xander’s twitch between them as well.

“Then, why not catch up?” Such passion in those words; such completely needful and wanting passion.

The only thing Xander could comprehend when he woke the next morning is that the room was blazing with light and that he was alone, no one lying against him. For more than a moment, he panicked, thinking the worst.

But then Spike entered the room, and Xander realized it was his bedroom, cloaked in the brightness of the bedside table. They’d moved to the bedroom just before daybreak to continue their…rekindling…without the self-barbeque tutorial.

Xander lay back down, pulling the soft down comforter up to his chin, and smiling as Spike slunk across the room, nude and looking just amazing. He slipped in to bed, pulling Xander close and wrapping his arm around the warm human.

“Morning, pet.” he said.

“Morning, Spike.” Xander replied, kissing Spike’s chest and then stretching under the blankets.

“God, Spike!” he exclaimed, feeling every bone and joint in his body pop and crack, all of them used within an inch of their life.

“S’right, and don’t you forget it, mate.” Spike teased. Xander only rolled his eyes and then rolled over to look at the time.

“Shit, it’s already two o’clock? I swear, doesn’t anyone wonder where I am anymore?” he said, rolling off the bed and hoisting himself up and into a pair of jeans, not bothering to throw on boxers.

“So what, love? Gives me more time to snog you,” the vampire said, sex dripping off those all too sensuous lips.

“Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Clorox, I’d love to lay in bed and do that all day, but it’s Christmas Eve, Spike. Stuff to do!” Xander said, running and leaping onto the bed and into the vampire’s arms, willingly submitting himself to another long kiss.

“What could be more important than getting the light shagged out of you, pet?” Spike asked, one eyebrow perched perilously high about the other.

“Mmm…huh? Oh, right. I have to run to the grocery store, get some last minute stuff for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, finish wrapping presents, have to cook the meals, eat the meals, at least see the girls and Giles one more time before they leave, and some other stuff.” Xander once more reluctantly plucked himself from the vampire’s arms, laughing silently at the pout Spike put on.

“Be out in a bit, love. Wanna shower.” Xander knew quite well that Spike was going to inch over to where Xander’d been sleeping and wait for the warmth to dissipate before even thinking about leaving the bed.

“Uh huh, in a bit? See you at sunset, buddy.” Xander leaned down to peck Spike on the cheek, surprised but not really at being pulled down for one more heart stopping kiss. Xander had the hardest time getting back out of bed after that.

The clock in the dining room read just a little before seven that night as they were putting dinner on the rich polished pine table. They had opted to use the large dining room table in place of the kitchen table, primarily so they could fit all the food on it.

Dawn carried in the dinner rolls, butter, salad and deviled eggs. Buffy was in charge of cranberries, fruit salad, toasted pineapples, sweet potatoes and Jell-O. Willow got the mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and fresh asparagus, while Spike agreed to grab salt and pepper. Giles spotted Xander as he hefted the fairly large ham into the room, the tasty hunk of pork dwarfing the silver serving tray.

Xander sat at the head of the table with Giles and Willow to his right, Dawn and Buffy to his left. Spike took up the foot of the table, smirking as he sat. Xander paused, realizing just how right it looked, Spike in that spot. At last, he sat as well, offering the carving fork and knife to Giles.

“Giles, would you like to do the honors?” He asked, taking delight at the expression on the older man’s face.

“Are you sure, Xander? I mean, this is your home, I really think you should do it.” Giles said, taking the procured instruments anyway.

“Giles, I’ll be honest with you. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of having a beautiful house and huge meals at Christmas time. Back then, I wanted my father to be there for the meal, to do this. Was important to me. Still is, that’s why I want you to do it.”

Giles stretched one hand out, grasping Xander’s wrist, a smile on his lips and tears in his eyes. He simply nodded, and proceeded to cut and serve everyone.

The group feasted, chattering wildly and loudly about how beautiful and delicious everything was. They grew into the normal pattern of sharing Christmas horror stories, memories and laughter filling the large house with the ease of age-old friends. More than once, Xander looked up from his plate to find Spike staring at him, smiling like a fool, his eyes sparkling in the light of the chandelier and the Yule candles on the table. More than twice, he found himself doing the same thing. More than three times he never wanted anything to change, to just be able to live this night for the rest of his life, knowing that Spike was there, was his, returned to him.

The feast was coming to an end, after dinner tea being served with delicious cherry and apple pies, when Xander was struck by an idea that became very important to him.

“Not to sound too yuppie, but I’d like to make a toast,” he said, standing and raising his full glass of Chardonnay. The rest of the group followed suit, smiles and love and belonging adorning the face of everyone.

“Geeze, Xander, get all grown-uppy, why don’t you? Make me feel old.” Buffy teased. Everyone else laughed at the pure simplicity of the buffyism, loving the familiarity.

“Anyway,” Xander began, glaring bemusedly at Buffy. “I just want to say how great it’s been having you guys here. I’m really glad you guys came. First time in a long time it’s actually felt like Christmas to me.” Xander paused his strolling gaze, catching Spike’s eyes once more, grinning stupidly at the warm fuzzies it gave him. “I know we’ve been apart a long time, now that we’ve all got our own things going down. But I’d like to say that you’re all welcome here, anytime. I’ve missed you guys, and I would love for you all to come back and do this every year from now on. Because this is what Scooby power is all about.”

“To the Scoobies!” Willow belted out.

“To the Scoobies!” Everyone echoed, taking drinks of tea, water, wine, blood.

As Xander began to sit, he was struck by one more thought.

“One more thing.” He scowled as everyone moaned, but continued anyway. “I just want to say that I know we’ve all lost people in our time on the Hellmouth, and we all know what it’s like. Tara, Ms. Calendar, Anya, Joyce…Angel. We all know the hell we’ve been through, and I think we’ve come out pretty good all things considered. I think we should use the time we have to remember those we lost because, really, we wouldn’t be here without them. So I toast to those we’ve lost and will forever love, in acceptance, in remembrance, and in hope that one day, far in the distant future, we’ll see them again.”

No one spoke, but everyone had tears in their eyes as they raised their glasses silently to those that had fallen so early in their lives. For many moments, it seemed as if the party had been crashed by some demon or other. But soon enough the clatter of dishes and chatter of laughter filled the house once more as they all helped to clear the table and clean the dishes.

Xander was carrying the tray on which the very meatless ham bone was placed, when he felt a tap on the shoulder. He began to turn, only to have strong arms wrap around him, Spike’s chin nestling sweetly on Xander’s shoulder.

“Was beautiful, pet. Thank you, love.” Spike tilted his head and placed a lingering kiss upon Xander’s cheek.

“Thanks.” Xander tilted his head as well, and their lips met for a brief but sweet kiss.

“So, pet, never gave me an answer to my question.”

“Which was…?”

“Are you happy?”

“Simple answer…yes.” Xander said, leaning fully on his vampire.


“Merry Christmas, Spike.”

“Merry Christmas, Xander.” Spike said, his arms hugging just a little bit tighter.

The End

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