So this is the fic I just completed for the 10th day of The 12 Days of Spander over at The Attic. Go check out the 9 preceding days here.

In any case, this fic will tell you two things:
1. Why I haven't updated Survival Instincts, though I'm getting right on that now.
2. Why I should not be allowed to participate in otherwise cheerful holiday ficathons (though I did slip in the holiday schmoop in the last chapter).

Hmm, so what do you need to know? It's Spander, it's probably R-rated, it doesn't really contain spoilers. The only warning is that it gets pretty angsty there in the middle.

I should also note that, while I believe this story is very different, I owe "A Long Time" by [info]mpoetess for much of my inspiration. Also, I owe a huge debt of gratitude (as usual) to [info]reremouse for not only beta'ing, but for offereing tremendously helpful suggestions and generally coaching me through the sometimes painful birth of this fic.

Right, so I'll shut up and you can just read it now...

Forever, in Increments of Ten

Savoy Truffle

They were together ten weeks before blood came into play, unplanned, like everything else in their “relationship”…

On the day snarking turned into snogging, Xander thought about freaking, he really did, but decided instead to slide his hand up under Spike’s shirt because, well, he had been wondering. And yeah, okay, falling into bed on the first date (“date” only in the sense of the first calendar date they used their mouths for something other than sniping at each other) is rarely a good way to start a long-term relationship. But then neither man nor vamp was as concerned with establishing a lasting relationship at that moment as either was with seeing the other naked.

And then when a guy (or vampire, who doesn’t need to breathe, by the way, and that’s key here) has just given you the best blowjob of your relatively short existence and seems comfortable snuggled up against your chest, it just doesn’t seem right (or smart) to ask him to leave. And when the blowjobs continue and then you’ve had his tongue in your ass, too—and wasn’t that freakin’ amazing?—and the vampire seems comfortable in your apartment, you just start stocking the fridge with blood and go with the flow.

And then at some point, you stop trying to always keep his mouth full because you’re actually getting used to the words coming out of it and because he’s actually pretty funny and smarter than you’d thought, though you never really thought about it before. And when he actually doesn’t seem to mind your company either, maybe even wants it, and when he doesn’t treat you like you’re stupid anymore (which is pretty cool and all too rare when it gets right down to it), it’s only natural that some emotions come into play.

And emotions do good things for the sex, until suddenly it all seems to be about being as close as humanly (or even supernaturally) possible. And what could be closer than letting your lover sustain his unlife by drinking your blood? And once you’ve come so hard you fear you may never walk again, it’s easy to see why the chip in your lover’s brain didn’t fire because hell, it should be anti-firing, it should be offering positive reinforcement, it should be rewarding him with cookies or a toaster or frequent-flyer miles for doing such a service to humanity, or at least to the Xander portion of it.

And from there Xander applied the same logic as after the first time he’d had Spike’s cock up his ass: If it feels good this way, let’s try it the other way around. So there he was with his cock up Spike’s ass looking down on smooth expanses of creamy white back, shoulders and neck, and then he was leaning forward and biting down and breaking the skin and the blood was on his tongue and in his throat… And after that orgasm, he was sure he’d never even crawl again. Thank god he no longer had any desire ever to leave his bed.

Ten months later, they started to notice the blood making a difference, but were too in love to care…

Being in love with Spike was surprisingly easy. Not forced, not something he had to (or even could) analyze. Not even something he really had to work at, because if there’s one thing Spike had down, it was magnetism and irresistibility. So loving Spike was simple, natural and inevitable, like breathing (his, not Spike’s).

Being loved by Spike, on the other hand, seemed to involve a lot of yelling and drama, though mostly of the overprotective variety. And then there was the bluster and Spike’s refusal to admit he cared, which Xander didn’t actually mind a bit. Because, the thing was, the whole setup was the exact opposite of growing up with his parents. Because Tony and Jessica Harris claimed to care (at least in front of other people), but every day their actions showed otherwise and those actions had eaten away at Xander’s heart. But while Spike made sure to tell everyone he could find at every available opportunity that Xander was just a good source for blood and a bloody good shag, his everyday actions showed Xander that he was wanted and needed and cherished and over time those actions seeped into his battered heart and healed it and filled it until Xander thought it might burst, drowning him in his own joy.

And Xander didn’t bother trying to explain this to Spike (especially since he’d probably just be called a poncy git or some other British thing meaning girly-man). Instead, he just let Spike be Spike, let Spike fuss and posture and bluster, and pretended to find it all incredibly annoying while secretly basking in the attention.

Then one night, during a relatively minor demon skirmish, Xander was too busy basking in Spike’s (utterly sexy) efforts to kill anything that came within 25 feet of “his boy” to look behind himself. And by the time Xander did spin around, it was too late to avoid a big, clawed paw slashing through stomach, leaving long, bloody and deep scratches in its wake. Xander’s cry of pain was immediately drowned out by Spike’s cry of outrage and before he knew it, Spike was between him and the demon, thorough but efficient in killing it deader than dead, cursing both the demon for daring to harm “his boy” and “his boy” for being such a “bloody fucking idiot.”

The latter continued as Spike carried said idiot home in his arms and Xander did his best to bask though the incredible pain. Except that by the time they got back to the apartment, the pain wasn’t so incredible anymore. And when Spike laid Xander down on the couch and lifted his shirt to get a good look at the damage, the wounds were already starting to heal.

It took ten years together to see the extent of the changes. But mutual immortality changed everything…

How did Xander manage to spend ten years not noticing that he wasn’t aging? Well, there were bullshit answers—that Spike spent too much time fucking him brainless and boneless, that they didn’t keep a lot of mirrors around the house. But the truth was probably simpler—that you just don’t expect the face in the mirror to change—or maybe more complicated—that he had never wanted to notice.

Whatever it was—denial or obliviousness—it took the Scoobies to snap him out of it. Xander and Spike had returned to Sunnydale for the first time in a bit too long to spend Thanksgiving with their favorite girls. The Friday night after Turkey Day, Dawn insisted they Bronze it for old times’ sake. No one—not Willow, not Buffy, not Spike, not even Dawn—got carded at the door, no one except Xander. And they laughed over it as they sat around the table with their drinks and watched the band, but Xander would catch them staring at him from time to time with odd looks on their faces.

When they got back to Buffy’s, out came the photo albums and suddenly it was clear as day. Only one Scooby looked the same in 2010 as he had in 2000. Xander’s immediate reaction was sort of a smug thrill. He bragged about drinking from his own personal (and incredibly sexy) fountain of youth and then dragged said fountain upstairs so they could fuck each other brainless and boneless and drink a red and coppery toast to the fact that they’d be together forever.

But by the time they were driving home from Sunnydale, the idea of living forever was losing its luster. Back in the usual routine, Xander became hyper-aware of the changes his body wouldn’t make. He began to conduct experiments, though never in front of Spike.

Three days after they got back, he went to a tanning salon. Xander spent hours under the lamps, staining his skin a deep caramel brown only to find himself pale and creamy again by the end of the day. The following afternoon, he went to a piercing parlor and got three rings in his left ear, one in his left nipple, a tongue stud and a nose stud. None of them hurt to speak of and they were healed by the time he stepped out the door. Xander got in the car and ripped them all out. Not a trace was left when he got home to Spike.

Days passed and one evening the guys from work went out for a beer. Xander went with, laid down his credit card and had ten, managing to achieve a slight buzz. When the bar refused to serve him any more, he got in his car and drove—steady as a rock—to the grocery store, picking up two bottles of tequila and a bottle of sleep pills. Spike was out, as expected, so Xander popped in a DVD and washed down a double dose of four pills with a swig of tequila. He waited half an hour, felt nothing, took two more. Waited, felt nothing, took two more. At ten pills, he dozed off. When he woke up, he looked at the clock. He’d only been out for about ten minutes. He took ten more pills, finishing off the tequila and went to bed. He wasn’t even late for work the next morning.

One week later, he slit his wrist over a measuring cup and managed to fill it to the half-cup line before the cut healed over. The knife he jabbed into his side yielded slightly more pain but no more blood than his wrist. Less than a week before Christmas, he borrowed a co-worker’s gun. The next morning he got up, got dressed for work, picked up the gun, went out in back of their building and shot himself in the foot. After cursing a blue streak, Xander limped calmly upstairs, wrapped the foot and changed shoes before heading off to work. When he got home that evening, he asked Spike to buy him a new pair of shoes for Christmas.

In between his experiments, Xander picked fights. Trivial, terrible, telling fights. Spike endured ten of them before he did the impossible…

The first fight was over who drank the last beer, since the fridge was beerless when they returned from the Thanksgiving trip. Xander yelled and, for a horrifying moment, almost thought he might cry, but the next day he laughed it off and blew Spike in apology.

The second fight began with Xander asking, out of the blue, if Spike was really over Buffy, because they had seemed to be getting along a little too well over Thanksgiving and why the hell would Spike want Xander when he could have a slayer? Spike told Xander he was crazy. Xander slammed their bedroom door in Spike’s face. Two hours later, he opened the door, found Spike on the couch and led him back to bed.

The following week, Spike called Xander on his lunch break, complaining that he was bored and asking if Xander could make it home for a nooner. Xander said no. Spike wheedled and cajoled. Xander snapped and told Spike he had to work, damn it, to keep his fucking house-vamp in blood and booze. Spike told Xander that it wasn’t the fucking house-vamp that bought and drank all the bloody booze in the house. Xander told Spike he would drink as much as he damn well pleased, accused Spike of being worse than a wife and told Spike he was going out after work—to drink—and not to wait up. Spike went out that night instead, leaving Xander to his tequila and sleeping pills.

The fourth fight was over wet towels on the bathroom floor, the fifth over crumbs in the peanut butter jar. The sixth was in the middle of a sports bar, the seventh in the street outside the bar.

The eighth fight started in the car on the way to Sunnydale for Christmas. Xander told Spike to “change the fucking radio station.” Spike started to do it, then told Xander to get bent. Xander told Spike he was selfish and inconsiderate. Spike told Xander that that was bullshit and he knew it. Xander started in on a list of examples. They were all bullshit and he knew it, but Xander wasn't about to let a minor detail like reality stop him. Spike started ignoring Xander and lit up a cigarette since he knew Xander hated for him to smoke in the car. “See how you are?” Xander interrupted his list to say, perversely pleased to actually have a real example. “Doesn’t much matter, does it?” Spike said. “Not like the secondhand smoke is gonna kill you anymore, eh?” And that shut Xander up, because that was the one thing Xander wasn’t prepared to talk about.

The ninth fight happened at The Bronze, the night before Christmas Eve. They were there with the girls, sitting around a table, Xander downing drink after drink like prohibition was about to make a comeback. Spike tried to coax him away for a dance, but Xander refused, repeatedly, and not always nicely. Spike wandered off to the dance floor and found other, female, partners. Xander watched for about twenty minutes, his grip tightening around his glass, before getting up and dragging Spike off the dance floor, out into the back alley behind the club. “Bored of me?” he snarled. “Never,” Spike said. “This isn’t good enough?” Xander pressed his crotch into Spike’s hip. “Rather have a nice pair of tits?” Spike’s face showed nothing. “Not particularly,” he said. Some people might have called what happened next—up against the hard brick wall—a fuck. But as he pounded into an unresisting Spike, Xander knew it was just another fight.

They made it through Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and Christmas dinner. The tenth fight happened Christmas night in the spare bedroom at Buffy’s. Xander asked Spike why Spike was even still with him. Spike asked where the hell that question had come from. Xander accused Spike of using him. Spike told Xander he was loonier than Dru. Xander accused Spike of being bored with him, of wanting Dru back. Spike started to yell something about stupid, blind and irrational, but then stopped, grew very quiet and said he was leaving.

As Spike shoved things into a bag, Xander railed at him, forbidding him to go, telling Spike he had no right to leave after what he’d done. As Spike zipped up the bag and lifted it to his shoulder, Xander fell to his knees and begged Spike to stay, apologizing over and over for all the things he never meant to say. Spike just stood there, looking down at him, and Xander thought maybe he saw something wet glistening in those blue eyes.

“I love you, Xander, but I’m not going to stay here and let you ruin your life so that you can have a reason to hate me. If I don’t leave now, one of us will leave later, and then it might be for good.”

Ten different cities in barely as many months and Xander couldn’t find anything that felt like home without Spike…

For the first two months, he’d played Spike’s last words over again in his head hundreds, maybe thousands of times, focusing on the part that implied it wasn’t for good, expecting his lover to walk back through the door any night. He didn’t sleep much—too busy waiting up. Didn’t eat much—not worth the hassle. Eventually he became visibly wrecked enough to get a “maybe-you-need-to-take-a-few-days-off” talk from his boss. He refused to take the time and showed up to work for another week before he was fired, told to come back when he got it together.

Well, who the hell cared if he had it together if he didn’t have Spike? Friends and coworkers called and tried to see if he was okay, tried to tell him that they cared. So they cared. What the hell difference did that make if Spike didn’t? When he unplugged the phone, they started coming by the apartment. Every time he heard footsteps coming down the hall his heart would start to pound. Then he would hear the knock and his heart would clench. He never answered it. Spike would never knock. Steps, pound. Knocking, clench. Steps, pound. Knocking, clench. He put most of their stuff in storage, the rest in his car and hit the road.

Las Vegas for a few weeks when he still had enough money to try and numb his sorrows with drink, gambling and dinner shows. With people in the casinos and on the streets twenty-four hours a day—loud, excited, rowdy, obnoxious—Xander thought he might escape the loneliness, the emptiness, the part of himself that wanted Spike back so badly he could hardly breathe. By the time Xander had discovered exactly how lonely you could get in a crowd, he was also running low on money, so he headed east.

He stopped in Santa Fe and found out from the only two men sharing a rundown bar with him at two in the afternoon that there was temporary work to be had on a construction crew. He signed on, happy to work his body hard all day before blowing his pay on beer, fast food and pay-per-view porn. When he was offered a permanent place on the crew, Xander decided it was time to move on. He didn’t want friends, he didn’t want a place. He headed to Austin. He found another crew, another dive motel, a nearby liquor store and several more dive bars.

The truth was—though he looked like crap with his unshaven face and shaggy hair and smelled pretty bad with his seldom washed body and even more seldom washed clothes, though his heart was broken—Xander felt fine, physically. And he hated it. Hated being frustrated in his attempt to wear down his body to match his soul. He wanted Spike to see him like this, wanted Spike to see what he’d done.

Down to Baton Rouge, then up to Memphis, home of the Blues. The live music with its lonely laments went well with cheap beer, Xander found. He wandered from one blues joint to the next, longing for the comfort of knowing that if he could just waste fifty more years of his life exactly like this, it would be over. But it wouldn’t. He stayed in Memphis until it got hot and sticky. Then on to St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita—none as sticky, but all hot. Denver, with its altitude offered some relief. Xander stayed until he started getting cold, then headed south again—Flagstaff this time, where it was warmer but would still snow for Christmas. Xander had always wanted (non-supernatural) snow for Christmas.

Flagstaff was too close to home or not close enough or just close enough, or maybe he couldn’t decide and that’s why he thought he’d stay for a bit. Or maybe it was Frankie.

Ten dozen women (but never any men), ten dozen attempts to fuck away his loneliness, before Xander found one with whom he could at least spend the night…

There were always women around, looking for a fuck. Looking to feel desired, if only for the length of a fuck. Looking to feel something, anything at all. There were men around looking for a fuck, too, but they were mostly married, mostly closeted, mostly furtive in their advances—at least at the places Xander went, because he wasn’t exactly hanging out in gay bars and coffee houses. Xander wasn’t interested in the men he could fuck in crappy motels and crappier bars—hell, if he were honest, he wasn’t interested in men at all, wasn’t ready to be that kind of unfaithful—but the women would do. To say he was interested would overstate things, but they would do.

He didn’t take them back to his motel rooms, always went to their places. They had cramped apartments, run-down houses, mobile homes. Some lived alone, some with children, some with an aging parent. Xander didn’t care, he was in and out anyway, never spent the night. Until Frankie in Flagstaff.

Frankie worked as a waitress in a not-so-dumpy diner where Xander liked to have breakfast on his days off, when he could linger over a cup of coffee. Frankie was different from the other waitresses. She didn’t spackle on her makeup. She didn’t walk with a heavy, weary step. And she didn’t toss her smiles around to just anyone, but the ones she gave felt genuine. Xander always made sure to sit in her section and soon ordering began to feel like flirting. She was funny when you got to know her. Xander could joke with her and she would laugh, a real laugh that made him feel like a funny guy, like the old Xander.

A couple nights before Christmas, he went to the diner for dinner and she asked if he wanted to take her for a drink after her shift. They spent an hour at the bar making the obligatory small talk before heading back to her place and getting naked. It wasn’t wild or passionate. It wasn’t tender or romantic. But it was nice, fun and comfortable, so Xander didn’t slip away afterwards, didn’t leave until time for work the next morning, and the next night he went back to the diner for dinner and the cycle repeated itself, only this time he stuck a change of clothes and a toothbrush in his car. They spent the next ten nights together, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and Frankie hadn’t decorated and they didn’t celebrate, but at least they weren’t alone.

Xander was eating dinner at the diner on New Year’s Day when Spike walked in.

Ten hours. They fucked for the first three, slept for the next five, fucked for the ninth and talked for the tenth…

Time appeared to stop for ten long seconds as they stared at each other. The diner around them disappeared—no sound, no movement, no one else in the world…

When time started again, Xander reached for his keys and handed them to Spike, asking him to wait in the car. Frankie was taking an order at another table. He could hear her voice, her laugh. He borrowed a pen from another waitress and wrote a note on a napkin. Had to go. Won’t be back. Sorry. It wasn’t you. He left the napkin on the table and walked out of the diner.

They didn’t talk. Ten minutes later—eight of which were spent driving back to the motel and one of which Xander spent trying to make his shaking hand unlock the door to his room—they were naked. Xander’s hands couldn’t be still. He had to touch every inch of Spike, had to know Spike was really there, had to memorize the feel of Spike beneath his fingertips. Spike’s hands did the same, burning Xander’s skin everywhere they touched, owning it, branding it.

It was too much, it wasn’t enough. They fell back on the bed, limbs tangled together. “Now, now, now…” Xander heard himself chanting. “I need you. God, I need you.” Spike was looking around frantically. “Spike?” Xander couldn’t figure out why Spike wasn’t already filling him. “Fuck, Xan. Lube.” Xander tried to access higher brain function. “Lube, lube, lube…” He rolled out from under Spike and rifled through a duffel bag in the corner, tossing a tee-shirt, a shoe, a pair of socks out of the way, finally seizing the tube.

They did Spike in Xander, so fast it would have been embarrassing if they weren’t both possessed of supernatural recovery time. They did Xander in Spike, so slow that Spike’s fingernails left deep red half moons on Xander’s back. Xander blew Spike in the shower. Spike blew Xander on the bathroom floor, then tossed his limp body on the bed and spent an hour bathing Xander’s entire body with his tongue. Xander was going to reciprocate, he really was, but his limbs refused to respond to his brain, so his brain gave up and opted for unconsciousness.

Xander was surprised to wake up draped in Spike’s arm and leg with the weight of Spike’s head settled perfectly on his chest. He savored the feeling until his bladder started making demands. He was again surprised when his getting up didn’t wake Spike, but decided to take full advantage, using his belt to bind Spike’s hands together over his head before Spike could wake up enough to protest. A tongue bath succeeded in bringing Spike to full wakefulness, some parts becoming more wakeful than others. Spike’s hands being unavailable, he could only watch as Xander thoroughly prepared both his ass and Spike’s cock before lowering himself on to that cock and riding them both to completion.

They laid there together and Xander didn’t want to say anything, tried very hard not to break the bubble they were in, but somehow words were slipping past his lips and he was asking Spike where he’d been. Europe mostly, Spike told him, taking in the changes, looking up old friends. He told a funny story or two, but Xander didn’t manage a genuine laugh, only grew tight and tense. Then Spike asked Xander how he’d spent their time apart and Xander started talking, telling it all and the bitterness was inescapable, seeping from the words, from Xander’s body, poisoning the air between them. How could you do that to me? How could you leave me? Xander didn’t ask them, but the questions were there in Xander’s eyes and beneath every sentence.

“I’m sorry,” Spike said, and it was what Xander had been waiting for, except that Spike wasn’t finished. “I’m sorry that I came back. It was too soon and I knew it but I missed you. Missed you so fucking much. I love you.”

But Xander didn’t feel the love in Spike’s weight easing off the bed. He didn’t see the love as he watched Spike dress. He didn’t hear the love in the soft click of the door as it closed behind Spike just about an hour before dawn.

For ten days after Spike left again, Xander cut himself off from the world…

Not that he had many ties to the world these days. Not like anyone called or came knocking at his motel room door. The main differences were that he didn’t go to work and that he didn’t eat anything that couldn’t be bought at a pick-up window or delivered to his door, including his liquid meals, because—unlike certain less forward-thinking states he’d lived in over the last year—liquor stores in Arizona did have drive-through windows, helpfully enabling him not even to get dressed, let alone shower, for days on end, until such a time as he actually smelled bad enough to make himself sick.

But the ten-day drinking binge was hard on his wallet given how much continuously consumed alcohol it required to keep him in any kind of stupor. So on the eleventh day, Xander stopped and showered and stepped out into the harsh light of day. He didn’t know where he was going exactly until he ended up at the diner, slipping into a booth in Frankie’s section. God, I’m an asshole, he thought as he saw her walking toward him with a coffee carafe. “You’re an asshole,” Frankie said, confirming his suspicions as she filled his coffee cup. “And you look like crap,” she continued. “True and true,” Xander mumbled from where his head rested against his arms on the table. “Thanks for the coffee, can’t afford breakfast.”

Frankie disappeared and Xander didn’t expect her back, so he was startled by the sound of a plate being placed on the table in front of him. He looked up and Frankie was sliding into the booth across from him with her own breakfast plate. Eying her warily, Xander started to eat. “Thought you wouldn’t be back,” Frankie said after a few bites. “So did I,” said Xander. Frankie nodded and added sugar to her coffee. “So?” Xander shrugged. “So… he left again.” Frankie gave him a pointed once over. “Can’t imagine why.”

Xander looked up, ready to tell her exactly what she could do with her helpful comments, but the honesty on Frankie’s face stopped him short. He pouted instead. “It’s all his fault,” Xander said. Frankie just stared at him and shook her head. “Two things, Xander: First, no one has the power to ruin your life except you. And second, you can’t live for anybody but yourself. Coffee and breakfast are on the house. And if you need a friend, I’m here. But if you’re looking for another substitute for him, look elsewhere.” And with that she took her own plate and coffee cup and left the table.

Xander received at least ten more tough-love pep talks that year during the painstaking process of piecing his life back together…

Xander didn’t just “get it” overnight. Or after a week or after a month. But he started getting it and he got it more and more as time went by—little revelations, epiphanies of increasing magnitude—with the help of Frankie, slipping easily into the role of best friend and life coach.

He cut his hair. He washed his clothes. He went out and got himself a job on a new crew and started acting the way he should to actually make it permanent. He spent less time drinking and more time showering and shaving. He admitted to Frankie and then to himself that he was angry with Spike.

After a few paychecks that didn’t go directly into the cash register at the liquor store, Xander got an apartment. He went to the grocery store and bought real food—or at least things you can’t get at a drive-through, like cereal and milk and canned soup and Twinkies and Cheetoes. He even invited Frankie over for dinner one night and his cooking skills managed to horrify her sufficiently to receive a standing invite for dinner on Thursdays, her night off, and to be often sent home with the leftovers. He started talking to Willow on the phone.

Xander got a permanent place on the crew and a promotion to crew leader shortly thereafter. He celebrated with a trip to the mall for some new clothes, with Frankie as his trusty fashion consultant. He took her out to a movie, a comedy, and they gorged themselves on greasy popcorn while they laughed their asses off. Xander went home afterwards and began making a list of places he’d always wanted to see and things he’d always wanted to do in his life.

As the months went on, the list grew longer. Two weeks before Christmas, three new things occurred to Xander: First, that he actually felt lucky to have time to do so much in his life. Second, that he didn’t just want to do those things, he wanted to do them with Spike. And third, that one day there would be way to kill himself—if he had Spike (or another vampire, if need be) turn him, he could be staked, beheaded or burned. He called Buffy, Willow, Dawn and even Angel and told them, if they had any contact with Spike, to ask him to meet Xander in Sunnydale for Christmas. Xander was finally ready for forever.

Ten Christmas’ later, Buffy swore for at least the tenth time that Xander and Spike would not be invited next year if they didn’t learn to act the ages they were instead of the ages they looked…

“Give me the bloody bag,” Spike demanded, circling the dining room table.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Xander claimed, the smirk of his face suggesting differently as he circled in time with Spike, keeping the table between them.

“A bloody liar is what you are. A no-good, buggering…”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that I’m very good at buggering.”

“Well, you won’t have anything to bugger tonight if you don’t hand them over.”

“Hand what over? And besides, you haven’t seen me in 8 months. Someone is definitely getting buggered tonight.”

“I have so much more will power than you, mate. You know I can hold out longer. You’d best just hand over the bloody cookies.”

“You do not. And Frankie would never put blood in her cookies, even if she does know you’re a vampire now.”

“Ha, see there! You just admitted that Frankie sent you here with cookies for me. I knew that even having a husband now would never keep my best girl from coming through for her Spike. Now give’m here.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“I have eternity to make your life very miserable if you don’t give me my cookies?”

“I could say the same thing, Spike. Try again.”

“I brought you leather goods from Italy?”

“Ooh, really? Not that sweet brown jacket we saw last time we were in Florence?”


“Still not sure how I feel about leather pants, Spike. Unless you bought them for you and you’re gonna wear them for me. Because that would be a gift.”

“Not pants. Said it was leather. Didn’t say it was clothing.”

“A belt?”

“Not a belt, but there are buckles…” Spike smirked as he saw in Xander’s expression that Xander was finally getting it.

“Oh… maybe we should just go upstairs and unpack…” Xander was headed for the stairway with Spike on his heels when a voice stopped them.

“Spike, Xander! Don’t you two even think about going up those stairs! Dinner is in five minutes. And you before you even say it, you two have never been able to be that quick.”

“Gee, Buffy has scary mom-voice down cold.”

“Well, pet, she does have a four- and a six-year-old now.”

“Both of whom often act more maturely than either of you,” Buffy informed them as she came out of the kitchen. “Now forget about the cookies, kiss each other hello and then set the table. You can finish catching up later.”

“Yes, mom,” they chanted in unison before stepping into an embrace and wishing each other a merry Christmas… with their tongues.

The End

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