Title: Gift
Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Angel
Rating: PG-13
Length: Short story (about 3000 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Notes: Christmas Day, Spike gives Illyria a gift. She decides she needs to reciprocate-- and brings him a surprise. Post-NFA, Spike and Illyria the only survivors, and on the run from the Senior Partners. Kinda angsty.
Chapter One: Illyria's Gift

"Happy Christmas, Bluebird," Spike said diffidently, handing Illyria a blooming blue tulip, in a ceramic pot wrapped around with a bright red bow.

"What is this 'Christmas'?" she asked as she took the pot and examined the flower.

"It's a human tradition. Every year on December twenty-fifth, people celebrate this holiday by exchanging gifts. We don't have a tree to put it under--" Spike glanced around at the shabby motel room they were staying in that day. "--and a plant's impossible to wrap, but I thought you might like something that matches your eyes."

They hadn't had much to celebrate in the last seven months or so. After the battle in the alley, which had left Angel a puff of dust and Gunn dead from blood loss, they had traveled around the country, staying one step ahead of Wolfram and Hart. The Senior Partners considered them a loose end, and had made rather serious efforts to wipe them out. The combination of Spike's quick thinking and Illyria's powerful abilities, some of which were slowly returning, kept them in the land of the living--so to speak.

"Exchanging. This means I should get you a gift as well."

"Naw, pet, you don't have to do that. Just havin' you here, gift enough for me. Not often I get to spend the hols with someone I actually care about anymore." He jerked his chin at the flower. "Didn't know what else to get you. What do you give the God-King who has everything?"

Illyria tilted her head back and forth, as if listening. "This plant should not be in bloom yet. It is confused, almost frightened." She stroked a leaf between her fingers and crooned to it.

Spike frowned a little. "They do something to them so they'll bloom early. Not sure what."

"You weren't to know," she answered.

Grateful that she wasn't pummeling him for the error, he noticed that she seemed distracted. "Everything all right, luv?"

"Yes." Her enigmatic stare unsettled him. "I will return shortly with your gift."

"You don't have to--" But she waved her hand, opened a portal, and disappeared through it, closing it behind her. "Bloody hell."

###

"Merry Christmas, Dawnie," Buffy said, lifting a glass of wine in a toast to her sister and Andrew.

Dawn smiled and raised her own glass. Now that they were in Rome, and she was eighteen, a glass of wine was allowed. "Merry Christm--"

The air shimmered, and a red-leather clad, blue-haired woman stepped through. She grasped Buffy's arm in an iron grip, said, "You shall be my gift," and pulled her through the portal. It closed behind them with a little pop, leaving Dawn and Andrew staring in shock.

###

Spike leaped to his feet as Illyria appeared back in their motel room with the Slayer in tow. "Oh, sodding...Bluebird, what on earth have you done?"

"Spike?" Buffy said incredulously. "You're supposed to be dead."

"You speak of the Slayer in your sleep." Illyria wouldn't look at him. "Your memories of Fred, like Wesley's, keep you from worshiping me as you should. Nevertheless, I would do this for you. You have been a ... companion ... to me. I do not regard that lightly." She picked up the tulip. "I will go outside and commune with your gift to me."

As the door closed softly behind Illyria, Buffy sat down on the room's one chair. "I don't know whether to hit you or hug you. How long have you been back?"

"They said it was nineteen days after the battle with the First. Came back as a ghost. Couldn't pick up the phone. After I got my body back, didn't seem proper, somehow, to bother you."

"Bother me? Bother me?" She jumped up and paced around the cramped room.

"Honestly, pet, if I'd known what she was going to do, I'd have stopped her doing it. I hear you're all cozy in Rome now, with Dawn, and a new boyfriend. Lord knows you don't need my bloody problems coming crashing down about your head."

Buffy ran her fingers through her bangs. "I can't believe...Where? How?"

"The amulet. Angel's office at Wolfram and Hart--"

"Angel knew about this and didn't want to 'bother me' either? I swear, I'm going to kill--" She stopped abruptly at the look on his face. "What? Oh, god, no. No, Spike."

"I'm sorry, luv. Truly, I am. He went out like the Champion he was, if that's any consolation to you."

Her legs refused to hold her up, and she collapsed back onto the chair. "What about..."

"Blue and I were the only ones that got out." This was said with a bluntness that told her she'd be better off not asking any more questions about it. "Look, Buffy. I gave her a Christmas present, and she thought she needed to return the favor. I might offend her by sending you back, but you don't have to stay if you don't want to."

Distraction. Distraction was of the good. "What is she?"

"Illyria. God-King of the Universe. Brought a bit low right now." He sighed. "Used to be Fredlet. Flashes of her, once in awhile. Not often."

"So, she's like Glory?"

Spike barked out a laugh. "Oh, no, pet. She's nothing like Glory, believe me."

Something he'd said earlier clicked. "What do you mean, if I don't want to stay? Why would I not want to stay?"

"I can't imagine," he said sarcastically, gesturing around the room. "Why wouldn't you want to stay with a couple of demons on the run from Wolfram and Hart, and leave the halfway normal life you've built with the Nibblet and the Immortal behind? How utterly silly of me." He reached across the space between them and took her hand. "Now that you've got all the other Slayers backing you up, you have a chance to relax. I wouldn't want to take that away from you, Buffy. Go home to your little sis. You love her, and she needs you."

"But I love you too, Spike." She frowned a little. "Are you and Illyria...?"

His turn to jump up and pace and run his fingers through his hair. "Oh, God, no. I am not having this conversation," he muttered.

"Spike! Then what? Because it looks like you'd rather be with her than me, from where I'm sitting."

"It's not like that, not really. She won't admit it, but she needs me. And at least...at least I always know where I stand with her. And when Smurfette's pounding the stuffing out of me, it's not personal." He didn't look at Buffy when he said this. He was spared further discussion as the door crashed open and Illyria burst into the room, slamming the door behind her and carefully placing the tulip on the dresser.

"The Wolf, Ram, and Hart have found us again," she said as she turned the lock.

"Bloody hell." Spike glanced over at Buffy as he grabbed swords and crossbows out of their weapons bag. "This isn't your fight, luv."

She tested the heft and edge of a battleaxe, and snorted. "Yeah, right."

"What are they this time, Bluebird?"

"Humanoid, muscular, and green. Two of them. They have a large red jewel in the center of their foreheads."

Buffy's head whipped around. "They what?"

Illyria didn't have time to answer. The door splintered open and a pair of Mohra demons armed with curved swords leaped into the room. Without hesitating, they attacked, dodging the crossbow bolts Spike fired at them. Buffy and Spike took on one, while Illyria battled the other. "Just like old times, eh, pet?" Spike grinned and parried a blow.

"You enjoy this--" Buffy grunted as her strike at the jewel was blocked. "--entirely too much. Try to smash the that ruby thing in the middle of its forehead."

Spike sliced the Mohra across the arm, sending glowing green ichor flying, and dodged the counterstroke. "That kills them?"

"Yeah." A swing and a clang as her axe met the demon's sword.

Illyria tilted her head as she took in that snippet of information. A cut across her brow bled freely, but her foe was wounded as well, in more than one place.

Acting in concert, Buffy and Spike attacked their opponent. Spike distracted it by jabbing and cutting at it repeatedly, as demon goo sprayed around the room, and Buffy finally got the blow she wanted in and smashed the jewel. The demon disappeared in a flash of light.

They turned to Illyria. The slice on her forehead had apparently been a lucky hit, because she was almost casually taking her adversary apart. With a contemptuous gesture, she disarmed it, reversed her sword so the hilt was forward, and shattered its gem. It howled in anguish, but before it vanished, it swiped its arm across her forehead, mingling their blood.

As Buffy and Spike looked on in fascinated horror, the blood swirled around and Illyria's cut healed before their eyes. A glow started at the top of her head and moved down her body, and she collapsed.

Spike was on his knees beside her in an instant, but recoiled and scrabbled backwards when she looked up at him with wide brown eyes. "Spike? What...? What's the matter?"

Spike's voice was a bare croak. "Freddikins?"