Title: The Perfect Gift

Written for: multifacetedg – btvssanta 2004

Pairing: Spike/Buffy

Requirements: Pairing

Spoilers: Post Not Fade Away

Summary: What does the perfect boyfriend give his inamorata for Christmas?

The Perfect Gift

Spike awoke slowly, trying to shake the muzzy-headed feeling from sleeping far too long. His entire body ached as if he'd been beaten to within an inch of his unlife.

As his mind cleared, he remembered his last moments of consciousness; stuck fighting for his unlife in a rainy alley alongside the poof, Blue, and Charlie boy. He remembered seeing Charlie go down in a bloodied pile under the onslaught of demons. Blue was holding her own with a fierce determination as the battle raged on. And Angel? That bothered him. What happened to Angel? He couldn't recall.

They had been fighting back to back, swords flying and rain hampering their vision, but nothing could hide the huge dragon coming straight for them, nor the gout of sulfurous flame streaming from its nostrils.

Spike wracked his brain, trying to suss out what had happened next. He remembered a sharp pain in his legs and hitting the ground, before everything grew hot and black as the dragon neared. And then he woke up, here. Wherever here was.

From what he could see, "here" turned out to be a box, or a crate about four feet high and eight feet long, just tall enough to allow him to sit, but not to stand. Eerily coffin-like and extremely unsettling, it was made of wooden slats and looked easy enough to break out of. He found out otherwise when neither kicking nor beating on the walls of his enclosure proved productive.

Resigning himself to being stuck for the moment, the vampire looked around at the crate's contents. There was a nest of quilts and pillows that he'd obviously been sleeping on, a cooler with at least a dozen human blood packets, and a CD player with a wallet filled with… Christmas music? The most insipid versions of every carol he'd ever heard and tried to avoid. Bloody hell. Merry, Merry Christmas byNew Kids On The Block? No way he'd be listening to this shite anytime soon.

There was no knowing how long his captors planned on keeping him boxed up, so he'd have to ration out the hopefully undrugged blood. Just his sodding luck. He'd spent far too much of the last few decades in crates and cells with bagged blood to make this the slightest bit comfortable.

Closing his eyes, Spike swore he could feel movement and the thrumming of an engine. It felt too smooth to be a train. Another ship, probably. And to think, he'd sworn off virgin blood parties only to end up boxed and bound for some unknown purpose and destination once again.

"If it's the fucking Nazis again or another government with grand ideas on my cranium, I'm gonna go on a bloody rampage… sod the soul," he swore aloud, wishing for something he could smash to smithereens.

All he received in reply were gurgles from his apparently empty stomach. Spike realized he had no idea how long it'd been since he'd fed last, but the need to do so was making itself known now. Grabbing one of the packets from the cooler, he ripped the corner off with his fangs and guzzled the contents, grimacing in distaste at the cold, lifeless fluid.

With one last look at the offensive CD's, he avoided the ridiculous attempt at torture by so-called music by trying to sleep away as much of his captivity as he could.

Spike awoke an indeterminable amount of time later to deafening silence. Not a sound penetrated the confines of his crate. He'd already done the talking to himself in a basement bit, and he was fairly sure crates had been involved in getting home from Africa by ship.

Staring at the CD's, the vampire wondered if it was actually Christmas time. As far as he could remember, it was May. Had he actually missed a half year somehow? Was it even the same year?

With trepidation, Spike picked up the CD player and popped in the first disc. Fucking sadists, his kidnappers were. Perry Como, for crying out loud. Yet… the words still drew him in.

I'll be home for Christmas

You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

Dreams, yeah… he had 'em. Home was another issue. Where was home now? LA? Nah. That last battle did away with the people he'd grown to care about… probably Angel, too. Who was he kidding? Angel meant more to him than he was willing to admit, even to himself.

Home. Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where your heart is. Home is… non-existent. Spike had no home. No place to go, nowhere to belong. Nobody who'd be happy to see him. But if… if he had a home, and if it was Christmas… if people were waiting for him…what would he bring them?

"Yeah, right," Spike snorted, derision sounding harsh in his own ears. "Only know a handful of folk who matter, and they don't even know m'still around." P'raps Andrew learned to keep his gob shut? Or maybe resurrection was no big thing to the Scooby gang anymore? Been there, done that with… yeah, with Buffy, with craptastically short term results. Or he just didn't matter enough for anyone to search for him?

Well, a vamp can dream, right? So what would dream-Spike get for the dream-Scoobies with dream-money? He'd start with dream-Dawn. Niblet no longer, she'd turned into one scary teenager. But she'd welcome him with open arms. He'd watch as she tore open the wrapping paper on The Princess Bride DVD, and they'd spend the evening on the couch with a bowlful of popcorn. Huddled together and just enjoying each other's company, like they used to. Perfect.

In spite of everything, there was Giles. The man meant well, for the most part, and he couldn't be faulted for wanting to keep the Slayer safe. For that alone, Spike wanted to make his peace with the man. So, dream-Giles would get a dream-bottle of British Royal Navy Imperial Rum. A rare find these days, but Spike would manage. $6,000 some odd dollars a bottle was pretty extravagant for a destitute vampire, but as long as he was dreaming, he might as well dream big, right? The two men would spend an evening getting royally pissed and resolving their differences. Yeah… that would work.

Then Red to think about. Once upon a time sweet, innocent Willow, now one of the most powerful witches he knew. He'd heard tales of her going dark after her bird's murder, and he'd seen firsthand the birth of all the baby Slayers. What to give the witch who could conjure up anything she wanted? Dream-Willow would get a quilt to snuggle up with her lover, as long as it wasn't that Kennedy bint. That one wasn't worthy of following in Tara's footsteps.

Spike snickered to himself. A sure sign that hell had come to pass was him thinkin' on a gift for Harris and demon girl. Not too long ago and he'd have thought about another bloke for Anya. She deserved someone to love her and stick by her. But everyone's entitled to their mistakes, and she'd forgiven the git before the battle which was all that mattered. So, his gift for dream-Harris and dream-Anya…

Now, Anya was easy. A moneybelt loaded with cash ought to bloody well give her an orgasm right then and there. Something to wear under her clothes to carry her heart's desire with her at all times. Spike smiled, thinking of the genuine happy she used to get from just touching the cash register at the Magic Box.

Xander was another story. Spike had once called him a glorified bricklayer, but he knew better now. Even though the boy had spent most of his last years in Sunnyhell repairing the Summers house, he'd shown great talent in crafting furniture. The weapons chest he made for Buffy's birthday had been exquisite. Dream-Xander was definitely getting a complete set of the best woodworking tools money could buy. Maybe then he'd have the time to indulge his creative side.

Only one person left on his dream list; Buffy, of course. What do you get for the woman who still thinks you're dust? His ego insisted that he, himself, would be the best possible gift. His soul gave him a swift kick right there. Coward that he had been when it came to her this past year, maybe he'd settle for dropping her a letter, or a phone call. Still, that was more a gift for him than her. Dream-Buffy deserved something special, but what?

Oh yeah. A jewel of a weapon. A small sword tucked nicely into a shoulder harness scabbard that would now fit right between her shoulder blades. Something that wouldn't impede her movement. To hell with gold and diamonds. Put his girl in tooled leather straps with brass fixings. Runes etched into the metal of the blade would provide a glamour to keep it from being noticed. Personal, but not gushing. Just right for his Slayer.

His mental 'shopping list' now complete, the music grated on his last nerve. He'd been absentmindedly changing discs while thinking and paying little attention to what was actually playing, but he'd had enough.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself

A merry little Christmas now

Spike sniffled, feeling very sorry for himself and wished at that moment for a fag or a bottle of JD to drown his sorry self in. Instead he snagged another bag of blood, turned off the music and cocooned himself in the quilts, praying he'd sleep away the rest of his detainment.

Approximately two weeks later – Christmas Day

Buffy had been determined to go all out for the holidays, to make up for last year's Potential filled disaster and the First looming on the horizon. With the Immortal as a boyfriend and no budgetary limitations, she'd fussed and planned and bothered and spent money as if it was going out of style. The end result was perfect. The perfect boyfriend, the perfect tree, perfect ornaments, the perfectly catered dinner and perfect attendance by friends and family.

So why was she so perfectly miserable?

Not that she'd tell Morrie, of course. Everything he did was for her benefit, a fact he reminded her of over and over with each new thing he gave to her and each new place he took her to. No, the problem had to lie with her.

The old adage must be true: Even though money can't buy happiness, it can, however, make the misery a bit more palatable.

"Suck it up, Buffy," she chided herself. "Stop hiding in the bathroom and make with the merry. Everyone you care about is downstairs, waiting to open their prezzies. Don't be a spoil-slayer.

"There you are, Belissima." The Immortal greeted her as she made her entrance. "It is time to make like Signore and Signora Claus, no? Go sit with your friends, mi amore, and I will hand out the… how you say… loot."

Wonderful. Relegated to trophy girl status in front of her friends. Buffy's smile crumpled the teensiest bit. Apparently Morrie's idea of 'us' meant him taking center stage. Fine, she could do peripheral. She slumped down next to Dawn, who wrapped her arms around her older sister and hugged her tight.

"Don't worry about it, Buffy," Dawn whispered. "I'd rather have you near me, anyway. We can make plans to go shopping for new clothes at all the after Christmas sales."

Grateful for her sister's reassurances, Buffy rested her head on Dawn's bony shoulder, and watched her boyfriend grandstand.

"For Signorina Dawn: a big gift in a little package."

Buffy watched her sister's face light up as she tore into the envelope with relish. She had to admit it was nice seeing a little holiday greed in her sibling's eyes, especially since…

"Holy shit!"

A chorus of "Dawn, language!" filled the air.

The excited girl waved airline tickets under Buffy's nose, and a formal invitation. "Oh my God! Paris And a private showing of Dolce and Gabanna's newest fashions."

"Take another look, cara."

"This has to be good," Buffy grinned, as the stunned girl sat down hard on the floor besides her. Taking the slip of paper from her lax hand, she understood why. "Morrie, it's too much. A blank check? She'll break you in a day's time."

"That is why there are two tickets, mi amore. You will accompany your sister for guidance and pick up a few things for yourself, as well. Nothing but the best for le mie ragazze."

It was overly extravagant, but it made Dawn happy. However, something about the proprietary tone in the Immortal's voice made her breath hitch momentarily. Let it go, she cautioned herself.

The Immortal handed Willow an envelope. "La mia strega bella, this gift was to be for you and your signorina, but please feel free to take anyone of your choice with you."

Willow's sad little smile held all of the heartbreak of Kennedy's betrayal. Finding the younger slayer in their bed with several of the coven's novice witchlets had swiftly put an end to their volatile relationship. She took the envelope gingerly as if afraid something would jump out and bite her.

"Oh! Oh, Buffy, look at this. An all expenses paid month-long Wiccan retreat for two in the Riviera," the redhead exclaimed. "Covens from all over the world at a private resort. Just, who would I…?"

Hugging her friend tightly, Buffy whispered: "It's okay, Will. I know losing Kennedy was hard on you, no matter what the circumstances. Maybe you can cash in the second ticket and just use the time for yourself. You know, get all peaceful-like in your heart and head?"

"Yeah, I guess a little self-introspection would be good for the soul. Thanks, sweetie."

"Okay, Monsieur Kringle," Xander chimed in, mellowed by the meal and the wine. "What've you got in your little bag for me?"

"For you, Signore Alesander," the Immortal purred, pulling out yet another envelope from his red velvet sack. "For you we have something special."

Ripping open the envelope with all the patience of a five year old, Xander gaped at the contents: a year's subscription to Wings and Tails, an exclusive demon friendly dating service.

Buffy's cheeks pinkened. "Sorry, Xan. I had no idea Morrie would do something like this."

"Well, it's not like it's uncommon knowledge, Buff." Xander shrugged, sheepishly. "And it'd be a great change to know going in whether my date's a demon or not." He wrapped his arms gently around her shoulders, pulling her into his warm embrace. "Besides, I'm really tired of being lonely. I'm sure you understand."

She nodded, hugging him back. Buffy did indeed understand.

"We have but one more present, and it is not in my little sack of goodies." The Immortal opened a small door in one of the side tables, pulling out an elaborately wrapped package. "Signore Giles, they are not originals, but I hope you will find them useful."

"Bloody hell! H-how did you… where did you…" Giles stammered, shock evident on his face at what the torn paper revealed. "We thought these volumes lost with the Council."

Buffy's head whipped around at Giles' exclamation, and watched as his eyes glazed over at the sight of eight, no, ten leather-bound books.

"As I said, Signore, they are mere copies. I have been around for a long time, and my resources are, shall we say… varied. Please accept them in the spirit with which they're given."

"I don't know what to say. Medieval Watchers' diaries from 1100-1300 AD – even replicas are priceless. Thank you."

The Immortal bowed his head, gracefully accepting the Watcher's thanks.

Catching his eyes, Buffy's displeasure was obvious. There was something that rankled her about Morrie having access to such intimate information between Slayers and their Watchers. If Giles was anything to go by, a Watcher would rather die than lose track of his diaries. And the ancient volumes had been under hex and key at the Council. How did Morrie have access and time enough to have these copied? And why? And when?

For some reason this whole evening felt like a distraction rather than an actual party. Everyone received gifts meant to wholly absorb them. Morrie had hit the nail on the head dead on with each and every present. Except for her.

It wasn't that she hadn't received presents. Her very outfit bespoke of her boyfriend's generosity: a white wool skirt, a white cashmere sweater, white leather boots… a perfect vision in white set off by the perfect string of perfect pearls around her neck and a ruby rose brooch above her heart. It was just… she'd expected something else. Morrie was nothing if not a showoff, and there didn't seem to be anything left underneath the tree.

The longer she sat there, the more she felt like crying. Seeing the happiness in her friends' faces only made things worse. What a sad little group of people they were. Not a couple amongst them.

"You don't seem happy, Belissima. Did I not shower you with enough trinkets?"

Unable to explain the source of her unease, Buffy sniffled, and then made a mad dash back to the safety of her bathroom where her tears fell in private.

Startled with the knock at the door, she raised her eyes to the mirror and saw raccoon-faced Buffy, her mascara puddling under her eyes along with her tears.

"Who's there?" She sniffled as she wiped the mess up with tissues.

"Buffy, it's me. Let me in, please?"

"Go away, Dawn."

"I'm not leaving until I see you."

"Did Morrie send you?" Buffy opened the door and narrowed her eyes, remembering when their mom used to send Dawn to check on her after a snit. "I'm fine, really. I just need…"

"Bullshit!"

"Language!"

"Stop it with the 'language' already. I'm sixteen years old, not a baby. And you don't fool me. I can read you like a book. In fact, I can read you like a comic strip." Dawn smirked, looking down on her shorter sibling. "You're miserable."

"Love you, too, brat."

"As someone was fond of saying: ha, bloody ha!"

Buffy felt her breath hitch again. Leave it to little sis to pick at the worst scabs.

"Dawnie, I just can't…"

"Yes, you can. And you should. It's all right to miss him, Buffy." With a little sniff of her own, Dawn patted her sister on the shoulder. "I do. Ten minutes every single day. It helps, and he deserves to be remembered."

"But…"

"Geeze, broken record much? Now cut the avoidy crap and come downstairs and hang with your friends."

"When did you get so wise?"

"When I grew taller than you, shrimp."

Arm in arm, the sisters made their way back downstairs.

As expected, the Immortal was waiting for her with open arms.

"So sad, mi amore. I know what will make you feel better. The perfect gift, but we will have to pick it up at the docks. I had it shipped in, especially for you."

"Really, Morrie, I don't need anything else," Buffy protested, embarrassed that she wasn't satisfied with the glut of presents she'd already received.

"We have places to be," the Immortal said, abruptly. With a wave of his hand to their guests, he simply slipped a white wool wrap around her shoulders and prodded her towards the door. "Ciao, più cari compagni."

A half hour later they pulled up to a small, dark warehouse. With a sigh, the Immortal led Buffy to a locked room. He produced the key with a flourish and handed it to her.

"Your gift is inside, cara mia," he said, stroking her cheek tenderly. "You will want for nothing." He turned swiftly and left Buffy alone.

She entered cautiously and flicked on a light switch, spotting a solitary crate in the center of the room. The perfect gift, he'd said, huh? For a Slayer? What, a coffin? Did he get her her very own vampire? Didn't she see enough of them when she still bothered to patrol?

Spying a crowbar, Buffy pried off the lid and peeked inside the crate, feeling the metal drop from nerveless fingers to clatter to the floor.

"What the hell did he do?" she whispered as she stared incredulously into the crate. "This is sick. A cruel joke. He thought a perfect gift for me would be a SpikeBot?"

She gasped as the Spike-like creature blinked and sat up in the crate. He looked as she remembered him – dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt, hair a mess of tousled bleached curls and that very well remembered expression of awe on his face.

"Hello, pet."

Oh god! Even the same honeyed caramel voice. "You're not real! You can't be real. Y-you're dead."

"Well, yeah. Hasn't changed since we met, love." Spike cocked his head, obviously unwilling to take his eyes away from Buffy's trembling form.

Unable to process what her eyes were telling her, Buffy collapsed next to the crate, her legs unwilling to support her weight.

"You can't be here. I watched you dust. I grieved your death," she whimpered. "How could he think a fake Spike would be my perfect gift?"

Stretching to unkink his muscles, Spike reached out to stroke Buffy's hair. "I've got a few questions of my own, Slayer, but m'not a bloody bot." He sighed softly. "An' nobody else would be stupid enough to try and replace an original like I did."

The haunted look in her eyes wavered momentarily with longing to believe what was right in front of her. "Prove it. Prove to me you're not a bot. And it had better be damned convincing," Buffy insisted. "because I remember April, and that 'thing' and they were pretty convincing, too."

"If you're talkin' 'bout the robot bint that threw me out the bloody window, then yeah, I remember her. And not that I'm proud of the other bot, you know that. Besides, who else would know about that thing you like with my tongue that makes you…"

"Oh god! You're a pig, like my Spike, but still…"

Her Spike? "Do you trust me?" he asked, echoing his words from over a year ago. When she didn't reply, he gathered the cross dangling around Buffy's neck in his fist and closed his fingers around it. The sizzle garnered no reaction, but the smell of burning flesh provoked a sense memory of another cross.

Buffy smacked his hand away and gagged. There really was no other smell to compare to roasting vampire flesh, thank goodness. She grabbed his hand in hers, prying open his fist to check the wound. With tears glistening in her hazel eyes, she looked up at Spike, refusing to let go of his hand and echoing her own long ago words:

"You'll live."

Tension broken, and belief restored, Spike gathered the weeping slayer into his arms. There were still so many questions left unanswered, but they had time.

Looking into her tear-streaked, splotchy face, Spike knew he'd never seen anyone more beautiful in all his days, and leaned in for a kiss.

Buffy told Spike that the Immortal had gotten her the perfect gift for Christmas…

Who was he to argue with the Immortal?