Summary: This takes place in the Spuffy Christmas Universe, like my other Christmas stories "Spiking the Christmas Punch", "Wolf, Reindeer & Heart", and "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bloody."
Categories: Post-Series Characters: Buffy, Spike
Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance
Series: Merry Christmas Spike Series
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes
Word count: 9,752 Read: 34
Published: November 17, 2006 Updated: November 17, 2006
Chapter 1 by Dutchbuffy2305
Riley Finn shifted carefully in his cold weather suit. The damn thing creaked with every minute movement and he wished he was back in the Amazon forest. He might even prefer candiru fish swimming up through his piss into his urinary tract to having frozen fingertips. Well, no. Divorce was hell, but at some point he'd find another use for his poor lonely dick. He sighed and wiggled his ears to be sure he still could. His communications man sat crouched over the great grandchild of the portable radio, carefully wrapped up in its own little heated suit, like a pampered lapdog. At last, he held up his hand to show he was done and Riley waved him over.
"Sir! The other unit is stranded in Fairbanks; they're having a bad storm down there."
Riley couldn't help looking south, although he knew fifty miles was much too far away to see anything. "We're to proceed to target as planned. Reinforcements will come as soon as the weather permits."
Riley would have liked to utter a few well-chosen epithets and kick something, but a commanding officer just did not have that luxury. He took a deep breath, and then regretted that. The cold air burned his lungs. It had to be subzero weather. He didn't ask. His men had been stationed here for six months, and he was the only newcomer to the arctic, straight from the steaming jungles. They'd see it as a weakness if he complained about the weather or even noticed it.
"We're go, men. Team A, deploy from the south. Use the back entrance. Team B, deploy from the North; check the garages. Team C is with me, we go in from the front. Chief, I want from you the temperature, the time, time of sunrise, and a rendez vous time."
"Sir, yes sir. It's 2 degrees, 08:45, sunrise at 09:58. Rendez vous in the lobby at 09:45," Jonesy said.
Riley nodded at him. "Maintain radio silence unless attacked, men."
He was just about to give the signal to go when their southern lookout lifted a hand for silence.
He listened, and he heard something that he couldn't place at first, but then recognized as skis, or a sleigh, crunching the fresh snow.
"Bloody hell, woman," a loud voice cursed. "Who the bloody hell had the bloody stupid idea to do it in the middle of bloody winter in the bloody Arctic?"
Riley froze and one look was enough for Mancini to hand him the binoculars double quick. He adjusted the sights and zoomed in on the creature stomping through the snow in black leather and Doc Martens. Pulling a dog sled, with a big bundle of furs heaped on the seats. The binoculars slid down on his lap and he thought hard of bonking them against this forehead until his brains were pulp, but being a professional had been part of his psyche since making Captain of his Football team, the Peace Corps and graduating West Point with honors. Things had been better as football hero, they really had been. Where was the complimentary cheerleader now?
"Cap'n, the first guy has no body temperature, and the one on the sled is well over human normal at 100.4. Take 'em out?"
Riley took a deep breath and put the sights to his eyes again. But he didn't need to activate the X-rays to check out the bundle under the furs, because a sweet voice pierced the air.
"Honey, you know planning these things takes time. And it was Dawn's idea so her boyfriend could be there too. She can't help that they broke up since. And isn't it a wonderful thought that all our friends will be waiting for us when we slide in?" the fur bundle said.
"You'll be sliding in, pet. I'm doing the work of six trained huskies all by myself, since we left it so late to get this done."
"They wouldn't let me fly anymore," the Valley voice pouted.
Yep, that would be his ex-complimentary cheerleader, only she hadn't really been, she'd been the undercover captain of the rival team instead. His trigger finger itched, even though he wasn't carrying.
But he couldn't do it. Damn those ethics. They never completely left you.
"No can do, sarge. Those are not the bad guys. They're the competition. So we're not going to kill 'em, but let's beat them to the target and get the laurels for our team. Go go go!"
They all went and jumped in the ice trucks in beautiful synchronized action. Riley was proud to be part of this team. Scouting out this demon nest, and getting the hostiles, would be that last notch on his record that he would need to get back on the fast track. It had taken him years to get back into the top brass's good books, and he was not, repeat, not, going to be robbed of this piece of action.
He rolled to his feet and jumped into the third truck, next to the driver. He stared ahead at the festive lights of the Chena Hot Springs Ice Hotel and clamped his jaws shut tightly.
Spike pulled mightily at the sled. His feet went out from under him and he landed hard, first on his arse, then his head.
"Spike?" Buffy said and he sighed.
"I'm fine, sweetheart."
"No, not that. I mean, I'm glad you're fine, baby, but I never doubted that. I thought I heard something on our left, there."
She gestured vaguely with her enormous furry mitt. Spike stared hard, but he couldn't be sure.
"Maybe it's the Northern Lights, poppet. Let's get on with it, eh? Sun's gonna be up in an hour or so."
"I hope the ice walls keep out the sunlight in our room," Buffy said in that calm voice that meant she was worried.
"And you think of that now?" Spike said, but he smiled inwardly. Thinking of him, she was. Never failed to melt him right down.
"Are we gonna be long? I'm getting a teensy bit chilled."
He could feel the force of her pout through the goggles, the furs and the ten feet of zero temperature air between them. Never failed to heat him right up.
"Fifteen minutes. Look, I can see the lights already. Prepare to have a hot roll for breakfast, sweetheart," he growled.
Buffy giggled and Spike accelerated. Didn't need any friggin' pansy snow boots.
The radio crackled. Riley swore and answered. "This your idea of radio silence, Sarge?"
"There's no one here, sir. Kitchen's empty, nobody around. Thought you'd want to know."
"Yeah, all right. Same here. Everything looks completely normal, but it's like it's been abandoned."
"Garage is full, sir."
"Continue your search and then meet me down in the lobby."
He clicked the com off and took another look. The Ice Hotel lobby was looking absolutely fantastic, ice walls gleaming, lights sparkling, sculptures, discreetly lit signs to the restaurant and bar. But it was empty. No desk clerk, no guests, although he could understand that at this hour of the morning. Absolute silence.
The desk phone rang.
"Want me to pick it up, sir?"
"No," Riley said. "But go and check the display for the number and write it down."
Okay, this was more of a mystery thing than a storm-in-and-butcher-anything-that-has-three eyes, tentacles-or-the-wrong-skin-color thing. He cracked his neck and nodded to his men. "We can do this, guys. Gonna flush those hostiles out."
Ortiz came back with the number. "Foreign number, sir."
Did demons have foreign phone numbers?
"Send it to base and have them check it out," he ordered, and was just about to command his team to fan out and search the restaurant when he felt something. Or no, saw something. He didn't do premonitions.
"The bar, guys. Hold your fire."
Riley peeked around the door and saw a green flickering in the air, forming into some kind of... portal? It opened and a girl in a pretty, fluorescent pink ski suit stepped out.
"See you tonight!" she waved to someone on the other side. "I'll call you when I find them!"
Riley pinched himself, but he didn't feel a thing except stiff cold weather suit. He filed it under inconclusive.
"Dawn!" he called out.
Dawn turned and flicked her sheet of straight hair over one shoulder. She looked stunning. Grown-up. The ski suit clung tightly to impressive hourglass curves. My God, he hoped she was over eighteen by now, because he could feel his jaw dropping down into the collar of his suit.
"Riley, hi! Long time no see!"
She hugged his suit and wrinkled her cute nose at the stiffness and the creaking.
"Never seen a ski suit quite like that," she said and poked his midriff.
Riley resigned himself to the inevitable and waved his men in.
"And then there were twelve more like you. Okay. You on a mission?" she said and peered around him. "Where's Sam?"
"Divorce," he said.
"Ow. Poor you. What happened?"
He shrugged. "One of those things. She got promoted. You know."
She smiled so sweetly at him that he was glad the cold weather suit was keeping him upright. He felt weird, kinda liquid, but then he saw Dawn zip open her jacket, revealing a pink velour hoodie and some interesting stuff filling it up. Just hot in here, he guessed. Thirteen suits creaked as he and his men shifted to the other foot.
Dawn swung past them and banged the bell on the desk decisively. She waited for a bit, and then leaned her elbows on the desk and continued the conversation. Riley'd been standing still, staring at her fluorescent pink ass, and so had the whole team. That was bad. Very bad. He needed to do something about that.
"Service is kinda slow, don't you think?" Dawn said.
"What are you doing here, Dawn? We're a demon destruction crew on red hot alert, and there's not a living soul in the whole hotel."
"Red Hot Alert?" Was he imagining the way her eyes traveled over him? "You're kidding, right?"
"Darn. Willow teleported me here to make Buffy and Spike welcome. The whole gang was gonna come here for the...eh, the special occasion, and because the buses weren't running they sent me on ahead to set up camp." She smiled proudly. Her smile was at least as wide as Buffy's, and with Dawn, he knew for a fact that she was a normal girl. It was mesmerizing.
"You have to get out of here, Dawn. Ask Willow to get you back, because it's not safe here."
Dawn smiled patronizingly. "I'll be perfectly safe. Buffy is coming in on a dog sled, because it was so romantic and they couldn't fly. What could any demon do to me with Buffy and Spike around? And everybody else is going to come in later today, as soon as the Fairbanks airport is snow-free again."
Riley was losing ground and he knew it. "Dawn. Special occasion? Party? Not gonna happen. There's no staff left here at all."
Dawn's face fell and her lower lip trembled. "No staff? No, no, that can't be true. You don't understand. It's the most important event of their lives! It has to go on. Riley, you have to help me!"
Riley smiled at his men and his men smiled at Dawn. "Dawn, we're on a mission. We really don't."
Spike handed Buffy down from the sleigh like a true gentleman and even offered her his arm so she wouldn't slip on the snow. Not that she would have, her beautifully tasseled mukluks would take care of that, but it was the thought that counted. She took a moment to look at the façade of the Ice Hotel, as the first rays of sunrise pinkened the expansion of smooth ice. So pretty. So romantic. This was going to be her perfect day with all her friends and family present. She blinked away a few tears that threatened to mist up the beautiful sight. She was kind of emotional lately, but everyone said that was completely normal.
The hotel lobby was deserted and Christmas muzak played almost below hearing threshold.
Spike frowned. "Not a bloody soul here, Slayer. Something's off. Wasn't everybody supposed to get in before us?"
"Don't be silly, Spike. They're all still at breakfast, or out skiing or something. Now we can have a moment to ourselves instead of having to entertain. Just what I needed."
She walked up to the front desk while Spike went back to get the luggage. Hey, shouldn't there have been a porter? She smiled at the desk clerk. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," she said. And they better not make any jokes about that. Spike had so far refused to cough up his real name, although he would have to tonight, and he thought using "Smith" was funny. Men.
The clerk was very informally dressed in a khaki T-shirt, but with biceps and pecs like that, she forgave him instantly. It wasn't often that a desk clerk was such a prime piece of man flesh, although naturally, Spike's biceps were superior in every aspect.
God, the hormones were making her extra horny. A good thing she had a Spike on call. She was hoping for a waterbed. Hmm. Naked Spike undulating on a waterbed.
The clerk was having trouble finding their room. Buffy fished her reservation from her purse. "The honeymoon suite," she said to the clerk. "Do you have waterbeds?"
The poor boy blushed. Probably doubled as a ski instructor, with muscles like that. "No, ma'am, we have Polar Bear beds with reindeer furs."
Or maybe he was a stripper? Her fantasy changed to Spike slowly peeling off his black clothes against a backdrop of bluish white ice, which would make his skin look like double cream. She licked her lips.
The clerk still hadn't found the room number. She sighed and looked around the lobby at the sparkly chandeliers, the bar with the cute fur stools, and it was all just perfect, in spite of the slow service.
Finally, the clerk found her key.
"Thanks," she said. "Help my fiancé with the luggage, will you? He's very strong but he's only got two hands."
The clerk paled a little, but walked manfully up to where Spike was contorting himself to get bags three and four somehow under control, but Mr. Fantastic he wasn't.
"Let's move it, honey, I wanna put my feet up. My back aches from sitting in that sleigh all night."
Spike looked worried.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she hastened to reassure him. "I meant I wanna lie down. Get in bed. Get it?"
Spike grinned his sexy grin, with tongue, and the poor clerk-cum-porter boy jumped back several feet. Nervous guy. Someone should massage him. She pictured herself sitting on a nicely pre-warmed Spike, slowly dribbling oil on his stomach. Hmm.
Jeez, hormones much? She could stand to wait five more minutes, if the guys could get a move on with her bags, please!
Their suite was just perfect. Furs heaped on the bed, acres of immaculate ice, funny Marshmallow-Man suits hanging ready for them, and she was definitely not going to fit in one of those.
"By the way," she called out after the porter when he left, "we want to have lunch at one o'clock. Will that be alright?"
Dawn herded the reluctant soldiers Riley had lent her towards the kitchen.
"Okay, who's gonna be head cook?"
There were no volunteers. She rolled her eyes. "You guys need an order from me or something? Jeez! Which one of you can cook?"
No response. Dawn put her hands on her hips and glared at them. "Fine, be that way. You on the right, what's your name?"
"You're gonna make lunch. You on the left, you're gonna make dinner. Divide the rest of the men among yourselves, and get going. Don't let me down. Don't let your captain down."
She whirled around. "But what?"
The sergeant who'd played desk clerk, came in, looking harried and a little white about the mouth. "They checked in. I think he's a vampire. Did you know that, miss?"
"You should call me ma'am," Dawn said, enjoying her position. That desk clerk had nice arms. Those were good arms to have. "And yeah, he's a vampire. And she's a vampire slayer, so no need to wet those khaki panties, okay? Get back to the desk. They might need room service. Or go to the bar."
"Don't think so, mi...ma'am."
"I think they had other plans." He coughed.
Of course. She knew that. She was Buffy's sister, she of the unrivaled collection of earplugs for sisterly holidays. "Yeah, right. They do tend to have those kinds of plans. That means you're lucky, and you're probably not gonna have to produce a lot of stuff before lunch."
"Lunch at one, ma'am."
"We can do that. Get going, men," she said and smiled when they chorused "Yes sir, ma'am."
Cool. Like in a movie.
She'd better check how Riley and his team were getting on.
Buffy shimmied out of her clothes, if she could still be said to shimmy, and rolled down on the bed with a little grunt. Spike threw off his shirt and advanced on her, thumbs pushing his jeans down low.
"C'mere," Buffy said lazily. "I need seeing to."
"Noticed that," Spike said. "Could smell it wafting around the lobby."
She gave him a little smack on his bare belly. He shivered.
"Be glad I no longer freak out over things like that. The idea that Mr. Yummy Desk Clerk would know what we were up to is not exactly stimulating."
Spike crawled on the bed and panthered over to where Buffy lay on one arm, revealed in all her magnificent glory.
"Yummy desk clerk? Looking to step out on me, baby? I'll eat him if you so much as look at him again..."
Buffy giggled, and her big rounded breasts jiggled enticingly.
"Oh, gonna lick those gorgeous nipples. They're just begging for some attention."
"Wait a minute. There's a bump under my back."
Spike sighed and placed a pillow under her shoulderblade. "Better?"
"Yeah. That's great. No, wait, now it's on the left side."
Spike positioned another pillow. He put his arm under her shoulders and shifted so that most of her weight was on him. "Comfy now, love?"
He squeezed a handful of springy velvet bum and kissed her opened lips. "Gonna see to you, sweetheart, see to you until you're seeing stars straight through twenty yards of pure ice..."
He groaned as her hand went to work on the last buttons of his jeans.
She stopped. "Baby?"
"How about the hot springs instead? It's the bed. I can't relax this bed. It's just not comfortable. Or something."
Spike patted the bed. Seemed just fine to him, not too hard, not too soft. But it was no use arguing with Buffy, especially not now.
"Hot springs it is. Want me to carry you?"
"Yes, please!" Buffy said in her special perky voice.
He carried Buffy to the hot springs, because she got tired easily and because he just liked carrying her. His arms full of gorgeous glowing Slayer, her fat swollen cunny sending out waves of dizzying perfume. A good thing the hotel was deserted, because even though he'd carefully wrapped Buffy in the complimentary robe, he'd forgotten to put on anything himself. Brilliant hotel, this. Quiet. Not even the bleeding Scoobies taking up his time yet.
He stepped into the hot springs space and saw with a twinge of unease that it was unroofed. But the clouds of steam were so thick, and the glimpses of sky so leaden and swirling with snow, that he felt secure enough. Sun was gonna be down in an hour or so, anyway. If it weren't so frigging cold, he'd love the arctic.
"Throw you in?"
"No!" Buffy shrieked. "No! My hair!"
Sometimes 'no' meant yes. He tossed her in and dove in after the mighty splash she made. She emerged, sputtering, her cheeks red with outrage.
"Spike! I said not my hair!"
He said nothing but drove her, grinning, against the sloping rocks walling of the pool. The water was hotter than blood, with a vague sulphury smell. Brilliant. He hooked her legs over his shoulder, a position they hadn't been able to do for a while, and pushed hard against her bum.
"Let me check out if you're wet enough yet, love," he said. She bucked involuntarily against his hand and trapped his cock between their bellies. He groaned. The heat, her flushed face and shining eyes, the moisture in the air around him made him wild. Not gonna wait any longer. He pushed inside her and immediately felt the squishy gloves of her pussy close around him. Her steely thighs scissored around his neck and choked the breath out of him. Didn't need breath to live, but he did need breath to keep up the running commentary. Meant she wanted him to shut up and get on with it. He got on with it.
Dawn hoiked her shapely hip up on the fur-padded bar stool next to him. Riley sighed and pushed away his pad, where he'd been trying to write down his lack of progress so far.
"Thought you were going for a dip in the hot springs?" He'd really wanted to go with, but had managed to restrain himself.
"Were, yes. But the hot springs were occupied. Very occupied."
"Buffy and ...?" Funny, he still didn't like saying ass-face's name.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah."
Great. The hot springs, which he'd been looking forward to visiting after the gig, now contaminated by vampire...secretions. Like a metaphor for his life.
Dawn pointed her chin at his pad. "Need any help with that?"
Dawn put her finger on his lips. "Before you put that foot any further down your throat, I'll have you know I'm an experienced Scooby, one, and two, a trainee Watcher. So nod and say thank you when I say I wanna make myself useful."
He'd always had a weakness for forceful women. He nodded and said thank you.
"So, Captain Finn, what's the sitch? Fill me in."
"A guide returned from a dog-sledding tour and found the hotel like this. Completely empty. He called 911, didn't wait for the helicopter and sledded to Fairbanks. We got called in a coupla hours later."
"So basically you know nothing."
"True. But we can extrapolate."
"From where?" Dawn said and flipped her hair. Drove him crazy when she did that. The Christmas muzak in the background suddenly strengthened into the schmaltzy strings of White Christmas. Did schmaltz equal waltz? And did he remember enough of dance class to ask Dawn to dance? He coughed and was about to get up, when Dawn pressed her hand on his forearm.
"Stay put," she whispered. "I told your guy Mancini to bring cappuccino to help us think."
And there Mancini was, with a towel over his tattoos, a smirk as wide as the Panama Canal on his face.
Riley leaned in close. "That's latrine duty for you, mister, if you don't wipe that grin right of your face."
"Sir, yes sir!"
He'd made it worse. He thought. But Dawn's cheeks were pink and she winked at him. He decided to take that as a good sign.
"Demons. Did you find any leads? Blood, bones, tracks?"
"What did you find?"
"Okay, but I mean in the rooms?"
Riley shrugged. He didn't see what she was driving at.
"The guests. Did they leave their luggage, and if so, which? Were they murdered in their beds, at dinner or when they were out skiing?"
"For God's sake, Dawn, I'm a soldier, not a detective!"
For a second he thought the lame quip had failed, but then her nose crinkled up and she laughed. Phew. Close call.
"I would so not have figured you for a closet Trekkie!" she said.
"And how come you're one?" he countered. "Very uncool."
"Oh please, do you know how many hours I was closeted at home with either Spike or Xander mumbling along with every line of dialogue? Believe me, many."
His ears felt hot. God, that must mean he was blushing. He was much too old to blush. "I'm...I'm sorry. I should have said something before, about Sunnydale."
"That's okay. Water, bridge, you know the drill," she said, giving him the perky almost-Buffy grin he loved best.
"What have you guys been up to since? I mean you. Don't tell me about Buffy and him. I still can't believe they've been together for four years or so?"
Dawn frowned. "No, just a year. He died again, and Santa Claus dropped him under Buffy's then boyfriend's Christmas tree in Rome."
Riley gaped. "What what Santa Claus Rome? Run that by me again."
She ran it again.
"That's...confusing. Let's get back to the demons at hand, because I think my head's going to explode."
"They didn't put a chip in your head, too, I hope?"
He winced. "Don't joke about it, Dawn. I hope so too."
She took pity on him and started scribbling on the pad. Demon expert or not, she still dotted her i-s with a heart, which was something between heartbreaking and corny. Heartbreaking because it was so corny, maybe. And it made him feel more than twelve years older, dammit, as if that wasn't bad enough.
"One: Check the rooms for luggage. Two: Check outside for tracks. If there are any left. Three: Locator spell. Four: Ask Spike and Buffy what they can find out."
"We're not doing item four," Riley said hastily. "I don't know how to do three. But the other two are great. I'm on it."
He took off. It was only when he was around the corner that it occurred to him that Dawn was in effect giving him orders. Leading the mission.
She was just like her sister. He shrugged. So be it.
Buffy entered the dining room on Spike's arm, pleasantly tingly all over and absolutely famished. Spike had been so right. A good shag or four had kept the traditional jitters at bay, and last night's nerves had evaporated. He'd even told her to shut off her cell, so Dawn and Willow wouldn't be able to call in with last minute niggles. She did hope Willow wasn't going to blow up over the dress. She and Dawn had tried their hardest to avoid the radioactive and the meringue, but compromises were always necessary. Dawn and Willow would look great in the shell pink they'd chosen, but it might not be Faith's best color. She'd tried to compensate by having as little fabric in Faith's dress as decency would allow.
Spike squeezed her arm. "Stop it," he said close by her ear. "I can tell by your face that you're thinking about dresses or placement or stuff like that."
"No I wasn't."
"Only for a second. And there were no worries. There was a satisfied glow in my thoughts."
"Good on you, love. If only I believed you."
"Do you think Faith will look good in shell pink?"
"Sweetheart, as long as you put Faith in something tight and tiny, no one will notice."
"My thoughts exactly. But I'm still boxing your ears because you were thinking of Faith's cleavage. Not allowed."
"Ouch!" Spike said, but the grinned and pinched her butt.
He pulled out her chair. When she'd sat down, she noticed the complete emptiness of the restaurant. How weird. Where were all the other guests? More importantly, where were her guests?
"Spike, where is everyone?"
"Dog-sledding," Spike said promptly. Too promptly.
"You're hiding something from me!" she accused.
Spike winked. "Don't ask what you don't wanna know, love."
Oh. A surprise! Everybody was being so sweet.
The waiter came to take their order and he was in a khaki T-shirt too. It must be their holiday uniform, to make people feel at home by dressing informally. That was fine with her, as long as they got that she wanted them dressed to the nines for the ceremony.
She placed her hand on the waiter's arm and smiled up at him. His arm was cold and goosebumpy under her hand. For a moment Buffy was a little put out by that. She wasn't such a terror that she scared waiters, was she? But then she remembered she always was a little hotter than most people.
"I like the T-shirts," she said with an extra-wide smile. "But you're going to be all dressed up tonight, aren't you?"
The thick, muscled arm beneath her trembled. Very nervous staff they had here. "Yes sir, ma'am, of course ma'am."
He must be Southern, she decided. Those wonderful old-fashioned manners.
"Get on with it," Spike growled. "And while you're at it, I want a word with your boss."
The boy almost fled before he remembered he had to take their order, and they had to repeat everything twice. Silly Spike, to scare him so.
"Hey Buffy!" a familiar voice called and Dawn slid in one of the vacant seats at their table.
"Nibblet!" Spike said, doing a very good imitation of surprise, Buffy thought.
"Hi Spike," Dawn said, and pecked his cheek. Buffy heard whispers and she tried hard not to listen in. Everybody was being so sweet. She knew very well it was partly her own simmering hormone stew that made everything seem all peachy and glowy, but it was nice all the same.
"Everything's under control, people. Not to worry, I'm on it. I'm on everything!" Dawn giggled.
Buffy wondered at her good spirits. She herself tended to go for the totally stressed out model of organizing parties and dinners, but she guessed everyone was different. Dawn seemed to be thriving on all the adrenaline.
Lunch was weird. She was sure she'd ordered a boeuf bourguignon, but although the waiter said something that sounded like that, it sure looked like a hamburger.
Spike pronounced it excellent. "Nice and rare, love."
"I thought a boeuf bourguignon was something else, honey."
"Oh well, who can make sense of restaurant French?" Dawn said airily. "Every cook does his own interpretation, right?"
Sure. The rigorous fucking had made her hungry enough to eat broiled demon, if necessary, and all that was missing was a good slay. She hadn't had one in three weeks, and when she thought of the two weeks minimum she was going to have to do without, she thought she'd explode. Better get Spike to have a nice afternoon seeing-to.
Buffy burped genteelly. One hamburger and she was full. She couldn't understand where her body was getting all that bulk from if her stomach had no room for normal amounts of food.
"You go on ahead, love, and have a nice lie-down. I'm gonna have a chat with li'l sis here."
"Sure, Spike. Buffy, you rest, you hear? We need you bright and perky tonight!"
"Don't worry," Buffy said and stood up with Spike's help. "Nothing is gonna make me less than radiant, believe me."
Dawn yelped when Spike grabbed her arm. "Fess up, Dawn. What's going on here?!"
"Calm down, Spike. Everybody is delayed in Fairbanks because of the snowstorm. They'll be coming in later tonight, hopefully before dinner. And..."
"The hotel is empty because everybody has been eaten, or something, by demons. All the luggage and clothes are still there, toiletries, everything, just not the guests or the staff. The guy who waited on you guys is a soldier, part of the demon-slaying team that was sent here."
Spike hauled her close and sniffed deeply.
"I thought I smelled something on you," he said tightly.
That was so creepy, and it made her feel like she was standing in her underwear, with all her secrets out. When Spike growled low in his throat, she knew he'd smelled Riley.
"Finn? Finn is here? Why is his scent all over you?"
Dawn tried to be calm and mature. She was mature. She didn't owe Spike any explanation. "Spike, get a grip. You're not my dad. Riley and I are working together to solve the riddle. We haven't found the demons yet, and we can't go out for spoor right now, but we will. And if you have any ideas what kind of demons they could be, what we should be watching out for, we'd be grateful."
"Captain Cardboard," Spike sneered.
"Hey!" Be nice to your future brother-in-law, she did not say.
"Never know him not to fuck up my Slayer's life."
"He's not here because of Buffy. Or me. He's just doing his job."
"Heard that before", Spike grumbled.
He started to pace. That was good. That meant he was trying to work off his anger and impatience by violent movement, and not on her arm. She rubbed surreptitiously. She was going to have bruises, but she couldn't blame him fore being overprotective right now.
"Don't like stuff being sprung on me", Spike said finally and raked his hand through his hair. "Got enough of that with Santa Clause having his little joke on me."
"Oh come on, Spike, you can't tell me you're not super happy about it."
" 'Course I am. Never thought it'd happen to me. But still, a little say in the matter would have been nice, don't you know?"
He threw his head in his neck and sniffed once more, but not for her, now. Good. Dawn realized sadly that her baddest plans with Riley were going to have to be postponed, because Spike would not be able to handle it and most likely kill Riley. Silly vampire.
"You can't go out in this storm, but I can," Spike said suddenly. "Would really like to, actually. Haven't had a proper kill in ages."
"Spike, your place is with Buffy now. She needs you more than we do."
"You're right, mate." He grinned, suddenly and toothily. "Doesn't mean I'm not going try my hardest to get Buffy to have a nice nap. Then I'll go out and have a quick recce."
Dawn shuddered. "No details, please. You go and do that. I'll get back to Riley and if I catch you guys making trouble, there will be hell to pay."
"Aye aye, sir."
"Spike? Would you do me up, please?"
He dropped a kiss on the damp tendrils of hair escaping from her sloppy bun. Such a sweet little neck she had. He climbed on top of the Polar Bear bed where she was kneeling in her ivory silk dress, bare feet not up to standing on the ice floor, he bet. He bent his head closer to the little hooks and tried to aim one into the eye but he kept missing. Needed his reading glasses, dammit. He let go off Buffy to climb off the bed and fumbled around in his new black duster for the damn things. Seemed like they moved around on him all the time. Maybe they were demons disguised as reading glasses, wouldn't surprise him one bit.
"Spike." Her voice sounded completely different, all business, urgent. "Sword, now."
His hand found the handle unerringly and tossed it into her right hand. She was holding the dress up with one hand and stabbing the gigantic ice-colored thing trying to rake her into its maw with the other. The bed was gone. Where had the bed gone? He yanked his axe from his bag and threw it into one glassy green eye. The beast was a low-slung, lizard-like thing with a mouth like a cross between a bathtub and a shark and emitted slurpy watery noises. It slashed one of Buffy's bags and she hacked with renewed fury.
"Stay away from my bag! That's a Gucci, which I had to stand in line for, and you'll wish they'd used your hide to make one!"
She stabbed at it with her trademark precision and intensity, hardly hindered by her dress and her bulge. She'd needed a good kill. Spike retrieved his axe from the eye, dancing aside when one of the six legs tried to swipe him, and methodically removed all the legs, ears, fins and other protrusions he could find. Buffy pierced the third eye in its forehead and it rolled over in agony. Spike hacked off the seventh leg. Or, um, its dick, he guessed. He stopped.
Buffy slashed on, satisfied only when she'd destroyed all the white shiny teeth, as big as bananas and as curved.
"And stay dead. And if you or you relatives dare come near me or mine again I'll kill you even more dead."
"Buff. It's dead. Let's get back to your dress."
She obediently presented her back to him. From behind, she still looked as slim as ever. Bugger, he'd lost the glasses again.
"On top of your head," she said and he started. He'd sworn he'd managed to keep their existence a secret. And where was the bed?
"Buffy, where's the bed?"
"Didn't you see? That was the bed. The demon pretended to be the bed so it could eat me." She kicked it again with her furry slipper. "Trying to eat a Slayer. Hah."
"So that's where..." Spike started thoughtfully but then shut up. Right. Nothing he could do about the people already eaten. And there was no time to kill the other coupla dozen beds before the official dinner. Bugger.
"Riley? You got the suit?"
"Kind of," Riley's voice said from the dressing room.
Dawn knocked perfunctorily and went in. Riley was standing in his tight khaki T-shirt, holding up red velour pants that were way too wide and way too short. He looked very unhappy, the way he'd used to gaze at Buffy when he thought she wasn't looking. Men. Always hankering after the unreachable. Did they ever stop to think that there were perfectly reachable younger sisters in the world? But no, they had to go for the five feet tall fake blondes, every time. Or the five feet ten brunettes with the body armor and stuff.
Dawn leaned forward to take a better look at Riley's pants' problems. Tight khaki trunks, alright. She checked briefly if he was eyeing her cleavage, and he was. Thank you, Wonderbra.
She snapped his elastic waistband. It wasn't tight enough to make much of an impression on Riley's washboard stomach. "A little improvisation, soldier boy," she said. "Take 'em off."
"Turn around, Dawn," Riley said.
"Please, Riley, you did register that I'm not fourteen anymore?"
"I sure have. You're what, eighteen?"
"All the more reason to turn around."
Dawn obeyed and watched him in the dressing room mirror. You couldn't exactly call Riley graceful, he took up too much room for that, but he sure filled out those trunks nicely. Good legs, too. She hated men who went all King Kong from the neckline down. The Immortal, anyone?
She held out her hand for the pants. She turned the waistband inside out and looked for adjustment options. "See? You can always adjust those Santa-for-hire pants. Try 'em now."
She waited until he was done. "Ready?"
It still looked ridiculous. "Isn't there some kind of portable belly thing going with the suit?"
Riley dug up a weird fluffy white contraption from the stack of red-and-white clothes. "You mean this? I was kind of hoping this wasn't supposed to be the beard."
"C'mere," Dawn said. She pulled the straps on tight on the belly, and now Riley looked like he was pregnant and wearing huge maternity underwear.
"Quick, put on the coat before I start giggling. Wouldn't want that to happen, huh?"
"Brat," Riley said with feeling.
Finally, with the coat on, and the hat and the beard added he looked okay, except for the army issue socks peeping out.
"Where are the shoes?"
"Bummer. How about your snow suit booties?"
"They're not booties."
Riley obeyed, which was very sensible of him. Dawn regarded him critically and let him twirl a few times. "You'll do. Give me a Ho-ho-ho!"
"Ho ho ho."
She winced. Riley's lack of conviction really shone through.
"That was...needs a little more oomph. You really have to practice. You have until midnight, anyway. Midnight sharp." She retrieved her sheaf of printouts. "Here. I went online in the lounge and printed out the words. Take 'em along and learn them by heart. "
She sashayed out of the room, a hundred percent certain that his eyes would be glued to her fluorescent ass. Riley Finn, whoda thunk? Dawn Finn Summers. Dawn Summers Finn. They both had a really nice ring about them. Better than Buffy Summers Smith, a tongue twister if ever there was one.
Buffy surveyed the ruined ex-bed with satisfaction. Well, that had been nice. A bonus slay. She checked her dress. The demon gore was clear as water and didn't even stain, which was a major thing on cream silk satin. She could actually grow to love their demon kind. Take them home and set them free when she needed a quick fix.
But not now. Now she had to dress. "Spike!" she said sharply. Spike had his hands on the hooks and eyes on the back of her dress, but they had stilled and he was gazing admiringly at the slain demon and its giant claws. "Dress!"
"Wha? Oh, right."
"And hand me the phone, too. That hairdresser hasn't shown up yet."
Spike handed her the hotel phone.
Buffy sighed. She had arranged everything in advance, but did people stick to their promises? No way.
"Reception?" she said sharply. "I arranged for someone to come and do my hair and make-up. She's half an hour late."
There was deep silence at the other end. "I'll look into it, ma'am,' the clerk said with a distinct tremor.
"Hm," Buffy said after she'd put down the phone. "I don't think much of the service in this hotel. They're friendly, but they just don't seem to know what they're doing at all."
"Hm," Spike said and finished up the hook-and-eye closure.
Buffy blew him a kiss and stepped into her satin shoes. She hadn't worn heels this high in months and she overbalanced immediately, straight into Spike's arms.
His hands tightened over her belly and he kissed the side of her neck. "You look amazing, Slayer. Pretty as a picture."
Buffy sighed and looked at herself in the mirror, suspended on thin air. Like an Easter egg on legs. "Not how I pictured my wedding. I was thinking more of a Vera Wang instead of a custom-made Zeppelin cover."
"Prettiest Zeppelin ever," Spike said loyally. "And your tits are a miracle."
She could feel him harden against her ass. He didn't seem to mind her expansion in the least.
"Don't crease the dress," she warned.
"If I just lift it up, gently like, we could just-"
A knock on the door. Saved by the hairdresser, who showed up as ordered just when she should have been half an hour late.
"Come in!" Buffy said and turned away.
"Oh my God, Buffy, you look so great!" her sister's voice said and Buffy turned in surprise.
"Hey, Dawn, I thought you were the hairdresser."
Dawn grimaced. "I am. Kind of. The hairdresser is still in Fairbanks, they said, so I volunteered to take her place. Sit."
"But can you do it?" Buffy asked doubtfully.
Dawn pointed at her own upswept hair. "Does this look good or what?"
Buffy had to admit it looked great. Soft and pouffy, with a few curling locks escaping down over Dawn's white shoulders. She opened up Dawn's ski-jacket to take a look at her dress. The simple sheath, the draperies gleaming with the richness of real silk satin looked fabulous. That was the kind of dress she'd have wanted if she could fit into it. She sighed.
"You look great, too, sweetie. So much better than the usual bridesmaid!"
Dawn twirled, with wasn't as effective as it might have been with the snow boots and the ski jacket, but still pretty nice. The cool shell pink looked great on her.
"We rock. The sisters who know how to dress!" Dawn said.
"You're not dressed yet, Spike," Dawn said.
He shrugged. "Won't take but a few seconds, ladies. You go on ahead."
He stepped aside and Dawn shrieked when she saw the dead demon.
"What - how did it get in here?"
"Buffy killed it," Spike said proudly. "Was pretending it was the bed."
"Oh!" Dawn said.
There was a world of information in that 'oh', if Buffy had wanted to pursue it, which she didn't.
"Dawn, hair?" she said sharply. "Time's not waiting for you to ooh and ah over demon zillion and one."
Riley stared at himself in the mirror. He looked ridiculous. He couldn't understand how Dawn had talked him into the Santa suit. He'd never regain the respect of his men after this. His life was over.
"Finn," a voice behind him said.
He whirled around. Of course there hadn't been anything to see in the mirror. The hateful vampire looked just like he always had, young and bedroom-eyed and undersized. Only the tuxedo was new.
Riley grunted a greeting. His fingers itched for the stake he'd put in the suit's capacious pockets, meant to hold dozens of small gifts.
"What the fuck are you wearing that for?" the vampire said, a sneer in its eyes.
Riley drew himself up to his full height and looked down on the ridiculous bleached hair. But he blew out the air and shrugged. If Dawn hadn't told Spike, he wouldn't either. For Dawn.
"I'm under cover."
Spike snorted. "Right. Came by to tell you Buffy found out where the demons are hiding."
Of course. Buffy was still the Slayer and he wasn't even in her league.
"You go and tell your men. They're disguised as Polar Bear beds. You can kill the buggers by sticking a sword in their third eye."
That's why all the luggage and the clothes had still been in the rooms. He should have deduced that himself. Damn.
"Dawn asked me to tell you. Thought you could tell your blokes about it and have them take the rest out."
Spike nodded and disappeared. Riley stood stock-still, trying to parse his emotions. Had Spike just been gracious and handed him the honors? He didn't want to accept any favors from Spike. No, it wasn't Spike. A vampire didn't have a gracious bone in his body. Dawn had thought of it. Dawn had thought of him. He felt all warm and squishy and checked quickly in the mirror to see if he really was blushing. Damn. He was. He waited until it had subsided and then activated his radio.
"Jones, I got the lead on the demons. It's the beds. The demons are disguised as beds. Form teams of three soldiers each, and be quick about it. Shoot 'em in their third eyes, middle of the forehead. We have to serve dinner in 30 minutes."
Riley looked up and down the corridor, as he had orders from Dawn not to show himself, but the only one who came hurrying past was Dawn herself. Looking amazing, even in the snow boots and ski jacket. She blew him a kiss in passing, and he blushed again. Damn. He was too old for stuff like this.
Spike felt Buffy's nervously clenching hand on his arm. He tried to walk as slowly as he could, miserably certain that nobody would show up. They'd have to get married all on their own. No, worse. Without anyone to do marry them, there wasn't even going to be a wedding. The restaurant's lights sparkled when he rounded the corner into the lobby. Not a sound, dammit. Nobody in there.
"It's so silent, Spike," Buffy said, a tremor in her voice. "Are you sure-?"
The lights flickered and went out.
"They're gonna be here in a minute now, love," Spike said, wishing he was a better liar. At least it was dark. He could still see. Buffy chewed miserably on her lower lip and almost broke his arm with her grip.
The lights went back on with a smoky puff and his ears almost blew with the sudden sounds of dozens of people's hearts beating loudly, breaths puffing, teeth chattering and little shrieks and giggles.
Buffy's arm loosened and she smiled her widest, fullest smile up at him. "You're still evil," she said with feeling. "For a second there I thought we were alone here."
"Don't be daft," Spike said and wiped his free hand on his black trousers. "'Course not. They wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun!"
She looked at him sharply but said nothing.
Their sedate pace had brought them into the restaurant now, and Harris was the first to spot them.
"Ta-da-da-da!" Harris sang. "Three cheers for the groom and bride!"
Buffy and he were engulfed in hugs and kisses.
"Buffy! Your dress looks awesome!" Willow squealed and Buffy squealed right back. "Yours too!"
"Looking great, Faith." Spike said, and got a wink from Faith and an elbow from Buffy.
Faith leaned on Xander's arm, resplendent in very little pink satin and a lot of leg in fishnet tights and shiny stiletto heeled boots.
"Look at you, B! Never thought there'd be this much of you," Faith laughed and hugged Buffy.
"Don't think I won't laugh at you when you're about to blow," Buffy answered.
"Not seeing that in my future, B."
Giles shook Spike's hand and clapped his shoulder. Being in Giles' good graces never ceased to amaze Spike. Dozens of Slayers insisted on kissing him, annoying little bints.
Dawn zipped and zoomed between the milling guests like a busy pink bee, and slowly everyone sat down at the festively decked tables. Spike didn't know who had hacked off the icicles and put them upside down on the tables, but he gave the soldiers a ten for effort.
He hoped the dinner wouldn't be palatable. Didn't want Buffy to feel anything but happy.
Where was Willow? She was supposed to sit on their table. He spotted her in a corner, white in the face and about to faint, and he hastily grabbed the mini bar bottle of vodka he'd stashed in his inside pocket.
"Drink up, Will," he said.
She drank, sputtering, and a little color came back in her cheeks.
"You teleported the whole lot in?"
She nodded, swaying on her spike heels, and he steadied her with a hand in the small of her back. "Sit down then. Get a bit of food in you."
"We're lucky the staff was still here, "she commented.
"Erm, no," he said. "But we got some unexpected allies doin' the cooking for us. Smile when you eat."
"Oh god. Eskimos. It's Eskimos, right? We're getting whale blubber?"
"Worse," Spike said, and showed fang at the stumbling young man pouring the wine.
Dawn snuck away during dessert to check up on Riley. She found him sitting morosely in his dressing room, plucking at his beard and his thick white eyebrows. He stood up when she came in and smiled widely.
God, he was cute. And enormous. But now that she was wearing her four-inch heels and make-up she felt much less tiny and shy. And possibly the two glasses of wine had something to do with it too.
She hadn't decided to do this at all, but it was like someone else had taken over, an ever bolder and more mature Dawn than she normally was. Her hand snuck out, hooked a finger behind Riley's red Santa-belt and drew him close. One yank on the beard and it was off. She kissed his stunned lips and it took two whole scary seconds for him to catch on and snake his hands around her waist.
"Dawn," he mumbled against her lips. "We can't."
"We already are," she said. "And I don't see why not."
"I'm on duty."
"So am I."
"You're too young."
"Shut up and kiss me some more."
Buffy looked anxiously at Xander's watch. She had an unsettled feeling. Things were going fine, that wasn't it. But there were vibes from the staff that she couldn't quite get her finger behind, and she'd never seen so many plates dropped and wine spilled. She'd been too keyed up to eat more than a bite of her food, anyway, and none of her guests seemed very hungry. Where was Dawn? The ceremony was supposed to start, and she didn't see the band yet, or the altar or the priest.
The wine-red curtains surrounding the stage parted and Dawn emerged, pushing a small table with more of the icicle decoration. Santa Claus was helping her. Dawn disappeared again and there it was, the strands of "Here comes the bride" being played. It was recorded sound. Where was the band she'd hired, the slackers?
Giles stood up and offered her his arm. He looked incredibly solemn and smiled tremulously. "My dear girl."
The whole solemnity thing and the wedding jitters and everything else that was a little off crashed down in Buffy's stomach and she felt as if she was going to throw up.
Spike squeezed her hand and she squeezed back. Okay. She could do this. This was supposed to be much less scary than an apocalypse, wasn't it?
Santa Claus was waiting at the little table on the stage. She was going to get married by Santa Claus? She definitely didn't remember planning that, and after this was over she intended to give the wedding planner and the hotel a taste of Slayer fury. Okay, so it was Christmas, was that a reason to have Santa Claus marry her?"
"Ho ho ho!" Santa said, Not very convincingly, and Buffy frowned. Spike's deeper frown met hers and then he glared up at Santa Claus as if he was about to kill him. So it hadn't been him?
She checked out Dawn, who was looking suspiciously dishevelled for some reason, and Dawn shrugged and lifted her hands, as if she said, "Nothing I could I do..."
Santa started reading from a small sheaf of creased prints and Buffy's unease deepened. That voice was very familiar. Very tall Santa too. Dawn was looking up to Santa as if he was a lollipop she was about to devour and there as something deeply wrong about that thought.
"We are gathered here today to marry this woman and this.... "
Santa's voice was hoarse and trembling, and he looked at her bulge with big, shocked eyes. Jeez. Not as if she was the first bride to go to the altar pregnant.
Santa's eyes shot to Dawn.
"Man!" Dawn mouthed.
"Man. Do you, Buffy Anne Summers...."
And when the voice said her name it hit her. Riley? Riley was marrying them dressed up in a Santa suit? She sneaked a peek at Spike. The way he was standing stock-still and gritting his teeth told her he knew too. Why? Why did this have to happen to her? Why couldn't she have a normal wedding like everybody else? Not that she'd ever been to any, but in theory, people had normal weddings all the time. And then Buffy Summers got married to her vampire, who'd knocked her up, which nobody could have expected, and the ceremony was performed by one of her exes in a Santa suit. How would she ever brag about this to her friends?
She set her mouth grimly and lifted her chin. Well, it wasn't going to bring Buffy Summers down. She'd decided to get married and married she would be.
"...take this man, Sp-"
"William!" Buffy hissed.
Buffy elbowed Spike. Spike said nothing, too stunned to react. Buffy elbowed Spike again. The sleeve of her wedding dress was going to show a lot of wear on the elbow, dammit.
"Smith," Spike mumbled at last.
So that's what he'd been hiding by not hiding it? Buffy didn't care. She turned and looked into Spike's eyes. She smiled at him until the stormy blue melted into a more summery mood and then she said, "I do."
She heard sobbing behind her. Faith? Who knew Faith cried at weddings? She heard and saw nothing else until Spike answered, "I do". Buffy felt a tear inch down her cheek when Spike slid the ring on her finger.
"I now declare you man and wife!" a new, much deeper voice said, from a lot lower down, and Buffy looked up into twinkling little eyes. Another Santa. Huh.
"Father Christmas!" Spike said. "Thanks but no thanks, mate, got enough of your blessings last time!"
"Now, now, me lad," the real Santa said and lifted a reproving, chubby finger. "Don't tell me you and the missus aren't happy. May your blessings be many."
"Hey!" Spike shouted. "Isn't two enough, you tosser! Very funny. C'mere if you dare!"
Santa Riley said faintly, "Two?"
"You know what it's like, mate," Spike answered, a malicious gleam in his eye. "Twins runs in the family, in the maternal line..."
The dawning horror in Santa Riley's eyes was his best look ever..
Riley watched with dry eyes as the happy couple swayed across the dance floor.
"Don't they look cute together?" Dawn said.
Riley noted with satisfaction that Spike's arms didn't quite reach around Buffy anymore.
"You should have told me Buffy was pregnant," he said, but he didn't let go of her hand. In his other hand he could still feel what she'd felt like in his arms, not as slender and ethereal as she'd looked in her pink dress, but warm and real, her curves fitting perfectly against his body.
"Details, details," Dawn said and flapped her hand airily. "I just wanted to give Buffy a very special wedding."
"I think she got that," Riley said. He nodded at Mancini, who was dancing indecently close to Faith. "Will he be safe?"
"Safe? Who wants to be safe?" Dawn said. "I bet he's gonna have fun, and maybe some bruises."
"I'm still glad that you're a normal girl," Riley said.
"Um, foot, mouth?"
"Never mind. Merry Christmas."
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