A/N : I first wrote this fic on some random pieces of paper way back in the early part of this year. It has a Christmas slant so I thought it was pretty silly to type it up and post it in February or whenever, and besides I didn't think it was so good when I read it over. It got lost for a while, amongst my papers and notebooks full of fic ideas and poems and such, but I went looking for it last week to see if I could resurrect it into a Christmas fic for this December. I hope you guys like that what I have come up with.

Summary : Set straight after the 11th ep of Season 7 'Showtime'. Buffy saved Spike from the First and brought him home to Revello Drive. In amongst all the adventures, everybody seemed to have forgotten it was Christmas...

Disclaimer : Joss owns the characters, I'm just playing with them.

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Spike knew she was there, even in this state he could both smell and sense the girl from the moment she opened the basement door, but he didn't move, just waited for her to come down and find him. There was a good chance she still had plans to kill him, and right now he wondered if that might not be such a bad thing. He hadn't been in this much pain for a fair while, and end to it would be pleasant enough, it wasn't as if a creature like him deserved to exist anyway...

"Hey" he turned slightly to look at her when he heard her voice, "How're you feeling?" Dawn asked, shifting awkwardly a few feet from the cot the vampire laid on.

"Like I went a hundred rounds with Frank Bruno" he smirked slightly, more so when he realised she had no idea what he meant, "Nevermind, luv, I'm just not too good to be honest" he explained.

"It's been a weird run up to Christmas" Dawn said randomly, walking over and perching on the end of the cot nearest Spike's feet, "especially today, I mean, Christmas Eve... you wouldn't think so, we don't even have a tree" she sighed, looking down at the floor.

"That's today?" Spike frowned slightly, wondering how so much time had passed without him noticing, and also why Dawnie was down here right now telling him this, "Er, sorry, luv, I didn't exactly have a chance to get you a gift, what with the capture and the torture and all" he joked lightly and she smiled at him, a genuine smile he thought he might never see again after all the upset that had occurred before.

"Having you here, and non-dusty, kind of better than anything you could gift-wrap" she admitted, making him smile despite the fact even that tiny movement hurt like hell.

"Yeah?" he checked, "What happened to 'I'll set you on fire while you sleep'?" he asked and Dawn's smile faded into a serious look.

"Oh I'd still do that" she said firmly, "if you hurt Buffy again, I would, but I know you won't do that" she told him, with a shake of her head, " Even before the soul, you were a good person, things just got bad with you and Buffy... she kind of explained it to me, all the ickiness, or some of it at least" she explained, making Spike physically wince at the very idea of the Nibblet having heard of any of his and Buffy's adventures from last year, "She was so mean to you, I didn't know"

"Reckon I deserved a lot of it" Spike said grimly, head turned to the side, face to the wall, "Can't say as I blame her for anything she did"

"Cos you still love her, right?" Dawn checked, attempting to see his face and glad when he turned back to look at her.

"Yeah, I do at that" he promised solemnly, causing the young girl to smile.

"That's what matters at Christmas" she nodded, "I mean the gifts are cool and all but family, and friends, and love, that's what really matters the most, right?"

"Y'know, you're turning into quite the young woman, Nibblet" Spike told her honestly and she blushed at that hiding behind her hair.

"You're quite the man yourself" she said shyly, "Buffy thinks so too"

"Yeah, well, maybe" Spike shrugged slightly, knowing the Bit was most likely just being kind to him. What Buffy felt for him was as undefined as anything could be, he wondered if even the Slayer herself knew what it was anymore.

"Oh come on, would I lie?" Dawn asked him with a look

"To me?" Spike said, head tilted slightly on the pillow as he looked at her, "I'd hope not"

"I never have before" the littlest Summers assured him as her hand found his on the edge of the bed, "I'm really glad you're back, Spike, and that the First didn't break you or whatever"

"Never could, Bit" he smiled, daring to reach his other hand out to her, fingers brushing her cheek affectionately, "Not when I knew you and your sister were still out here. Had to find my way back to you two, didn't I?"

Dawn made a little sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob at that, she'd been so afraid of losing him.
"I missed you" she cried and giggled at the same time, "Big Brother Guy"

It was true, she really had missed him so much. He'd been her best friend, her brother, and her secret crush for a while too. Though she'd meant what she said about setting him on fire if he touched her sister inappropriately again, it didn't mean she loved him any the less. When the First had captured him she'd been so scared he'd be dust before she had a chance to tell him that.

"Missed you too, sweetheart" Spike told her, feeling ridiculously emotional about it, "I'm sorry we had to fall out like we did" he said solemnly, almost certain he could feel tears in his own eyes. He blamed the damn soul for it but the fact was he loved this little girl, the sister or even daughter he never had, and he'd missed her being there, needing him like she had before.

"It doesn't matter now" she sniffed, as she leant forward to hug him "Merry Christmas, Spike" she said, though the words were muffled against the blanket that covered him.

"Merry Christmas, kitten" he replied, kissing the top of her head, as he wrapped his arms around her slender form and hugged her back. He tried not to wince, not make a sound about the pain she was inflicting on him as her arms tightened around him, but it soon became impossible. The strangled sound that left his throat made her remove herself from him quickly, and feel terrible for any pain she might have caused.

"Oh, did that hurt?" she asked guiltily and Spike shook his head.

"Not enough to complain" he told her, though it had felt like he was dying all over again to be honest, it was worth it to get a hug from this girl. It meant she not only liked him again, but also trusted him.

"Think you could stand one more?" said another voice behind Dawn, and Buffy stepped out of the shadows. He'd wondered if he'd sensed her before but had put it down to wishful thinking until he saw her.

"Slayer?" he checked, as he turned his head to look at her, still not really trusting his own eyes after dreaming of Buffy so many times when the First had him bound and beaten.

"How're you feeling, Spike?" she asked as she stood by the bed and looked down at him.

"Popular question" he told her, glancing between her and Dawn, "You want the truth, bloody awful, but I'll mend" he assured her "Advantage of the vampire constitution"

Buffy smiled at that. Even in this state he was the same old Spike. The soul made a difference, all that he'd been through had changed him, and yet in some ways he was exactly the same as he'd always been, and she liked that.

"Dawnie could you go upstairs" she asked her sister, "Molly has a crossbow and last I saw she was pretty close to Mom's best china"

"I'm on it" she nodded, mock saluting as she made to leave. She glanced between her sister and brother-figure as she got to the stairs. On this occasion she wouldn't argue about her sister making her leave Spike's side, she knew they needed to talk.

Buffy took Dawn's place on the edge of Spike's cot and glanced down at him.

"Giles thinks you should be almost as good as new within the week" she told him.

"Doctor now is he?" Spike smirked and she smiled at the fact he was still making sarcastic comments and jokes even in this state, all battered and bruised.

"Spike" she sighed as she looked him over, almost physically wincing at how much pain she knew he must be in, "I'm sorry you got taken, and I..."

"Slayer" he interrupted, daring to put his hand over hers on the bed, "it's not your fault the bloody First and it's flunkies got a hold of me..."

"Please, let me finish" she cut in this time, determined to say what she'd come down here to say, no matter how difficult it was, "I'm sorry you got taken, because I thought... I might never get the chance to tell you... God, this is so stupid!" she exclaimed frustratedly, her eyes leaving his face and looking down at their adjoined hands as she struggled with her words, "Spike, I don't just believe in you" she explained, forcing herself to meet his eyes once again, "I need you, Spike, I think I... I can't say it, I probably should but, usually with me it's three small words and oops, there goes another guy" she smiled sadly, hating that this was so hard, but unable to help it. Spike squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"I'm not like the other blokes you dated, luv" he pointed out, his statement true on so many levels.

"I know" Buffy nodded in agreement, "You leave sometimes, but you always come back" she noted with a more genuine smile that Spike was glad to see. She really did believe in him.

"Always will, pet" he promised once again, his thumb stroking her wrist as he spoke, "Dunno how to exist away from you too long. You and the Bit, you're my family, my whole bloody world if you want the truth"

Buffy felt tears fill her eyes and looked away from Spike so he wouldn't see. It shouldn't matter if he saw her cry, it wouldn't be the first time after all, but everything was still so awkward, and the overwhelming feeling that she needed to escape would not let up.

"You should rest" she said, trying to slip her hand from his, but his fingers gripped her own.

"Don't go" he begged almost pathetically, "Please, stay" he asked of her as she looked down at him, his expressive and beautiful blue eyes pleading with her just to sit by him a little longer. The poor guy was still looking for that crumb he'd asked for two years ago and Buffy hated herself for what she'd put him through. He was no saint, but she shouldn't have used and abused him the way she had either.

She turned back to the bed, was about to sit down when she changed her mind.

"Does it hurt too much for you to move over a little?" she asked, almost shyly and Spike could hardly believe she was suggesting what she seemed to be.

"For you? Won't feel a soddin' thing" he smiled, though it was a lie. Moving across the bed to make room for her to lie beside him was pure agony, but the reward of having her there with him would make it worthwhile.

Buffy kicked off her shoes and lay down beside Spike on her side, her body barely touching his except for her head lightly on his shoulder and one arm carefully placed across his waist. She tried to avoid touching him anywhere she knew was badly bruised or damaged, though she knew he probably wouldn't mention it even if she did hurt him.

Spike managed to put his arm around her without too much trouble and closed his eyes to savour the feeling of having her there beside him. If this was another dream it was a bloody good one and he'd be happy for it to never end. Whether it was real or not he had things he wanted to say, and given that this might be his only chance he took his shot.

"If I could get you any Christmas present, Slayer, I'd give you the world" he told her, very poetically for a man who was once so 'bloody awful' when it came to verse, "As it is, all I've got is what you see" he said sadly, "If I offer you my heart I know I'll just get it thrown back in my face..."

"No" she interrupted, and Spike was sure that without his enhanced vampire hearing he never would have heard her, "No" she repeated more loudly, lifting her head up from his shoulder and looking down at him, "I... I don't think you would" she admitted to his surprise, "Spike, I can't give you much right now" she explained, "I'm heading for the fight of my life, I'm beyond scared" she said with a shake evident in her voice though she tried to hide it, "I don't know whether this thing is defeatable or how were gonna deal. All I know for sure is that... is that I need you here" she told him, her hand going to his face, carefully tracing the planes of it around the angry marks inflicted by the First and it's cohorts, "I feel something for you" she continued, "that maybe one day might be more... but maybe... maybe this is just all there is" she gestured vaguely from herself to him and back, meaning their situation as it stood now may be as good as it got. She thought she could deal with that, but she knew to expect him to accept that was cruel when his feelings for her seemed to run so deep.

"I can deal with that, Buffy" he said, much to her relief, as his hand covered hers on his own cheek, "Having you trust me, be here like this with me, it's a bleedin' sight more than I deserve" he told her, making her tears return, one escaping down her cheek, "but no matter what happens, pet" he promised as he moved his hand to wipe that tear away, "I'm always going to love you" he promised her faithfully.

"I know" Buffy nodded, swallowing hard to control her emotions.

Spike closed his eyes then and smiled, just glad to know she accepted his feelings now, even if she could not return them yet. He almost wondered if he'd dreamt the feel of her soft lips against his own, just for a moment before her head went back to his shoulder and she carefully snuggled up close to him.

"Merry Christmas, Spike" Buffy whispered in the dark as she too closed her eyes and waited for sleep to come.

"Merry Christmas, luv" he replied in kind, kissing the top of her head.

Whether she knew it or not, she was giving him the best Christmas present of his whole existence, just by being there.

The End

A/N : Reviews are always very much appreciated!
Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, to you all.