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Undercover Christmas, Part 4 (final part)
by Sandy (sandy_s)
at December 31st, 2018 (01:00 pm)


The snowflakes were bigger and thicker than any Buffy had ever seen before; they even dimmed the lights along the path toward wherever they were going, and the night sky was invisible and greyish black. But she somehow managed to keep sight of Spike’s form as she purposefully ran between him and Mark so that the Watcher didn’t get lost.

They’d passed more bundled up people heading back to the hotel, and with each group they passed, she felt relieved that they weren’t somehow headless.

A clearing opened up before them, the edges of the path melting away. The silhouette of trees loomed to her right, and the bright orange and yellow of flames flicked and danced and disappeared before her. Her chest tightened as she thought of her hand and Spike’s ablaze together before the world came crashing down around them, and she rushed a little too quickly toward him, straining to view his form in the night. It had been a year and a half, but she was still fearful of losing him, probably the same way he feared losing her.

“Buffy! Slower!” Mark called from behind her, desperation in his voice, just as another group of tourists hurtled by. Their sobs and cries of distress were flung in her direction.

Damn it!

Buffy plunged on ahead despite the Watcher’s signal that she was going too fast – her breath coming out in faster puffs as warmth left her body. As she drew close to the deadly warmth of the fire, she stumbled and regained her footing only to discover with horror that she’d tripped over a woman who had quite literally lost her head and not in a Gentlemanly-head-exploding-kind-of way. The neck wound gaped dark red and jagged, and Buffy gasped before she could stop herself.

Someone caught her elbow, and she jerked away, dancing to one side and whirling to face the owner of the touch. “Spike!” Then, she saw the forms of several other bodies strewn as far as she could see and felt sick.

“Where’s the Watcher?” Spike said with urgency. “We need weapons!”

Rina hovered just behind him, clutching at Spike’s coat. “You can’t just kill them!”

Buffy felt her anger flare. “Look around at the dead bodies! Whoever – whatever did this has to die before they keep killing!”

“B-but they’re my charges,” Rina sobbed.

Mark caught up to them, wheezing as his chest heaved in his attempt to catch his breath. He slung the weapons back at Buffy who caught the strap with ease. He bent, putting his hands on his thighs in a way that reminded Buffy of Giles. “The Adlets won’t stop. According to the legends, t-they’re insane.”

“And I need a chance to try to contain them!” Rina insisted, but her tone was rapidly becoming half-hearted and was more than a bit hopeless.

Spike softened. “Look, pet. I’m assuming these half-pups are your mother’s lovely little gift to you upon her passing, but they’ve gotten out of hand. Even if you could contain them, the legacy they’d leave with you would haunt you every single day you tended to them. Trust me. I know about being haunted.”

Buffy longed to touch Spike then – to provide some reassurance to him that he didn’t need to be alone with the guilt that came with the soul – something she knew that he didn’t wallow in but that still lingered. She had enough of her own regrets to get his on some level. “We can handle this. It’s kind of our job. . . that we can explain in more detail later.”

Though Rina still sounded tentative, she said, “There are five of them.”

With a gurgle, Mark was jerked back with abruptness, leaving a swirl of white snowflakes in his wake.

“Bloody hell!” Spike launched himself through the floating ice.

“Spike!” Buffy shouted, thrusting the bag of weapons to the startled Rina, who sagged with the weight of them. “Open these. Be right back.”

All her instincts trained on her surroundings, Buffy followed the sounds of grunting and punches, which somehow seemed farther away than was possible. Time passed with impossible slowness as she desperately searched.

She thought she caught glimpses of movement ahead, but without warning, a towering man stepped in front of her, his long, dark hair wild and tangled and his bare legs covered in thick fur that tapered down to a large paw. He growled – the sound canine and menacing.

But menacing didn’t frighten Buffy, and she charged ahead, her fist leading the way as she punched the man-dog in his square jaw.

The creature whimpered in surprise but came back with a swift rally of punches in return, which Buffy mostly managed to dodge. She ducked one particularly wild swing and swept her leg around, knocking the creature off his feet. . . paws. He flung himself back toward her, grabbing her arm and dragging her roughly up, but she used the ground to push off and smash her boot into his face. He dropped her like a hot potato, and she scrabbled to her feet again – one hand now gloveless and sliding in the snow. The lost article of clothing was a distraction, and the creature delivered a well-timed hit to her breastbone.

She reeled – the wind knocked out of her for a moment. The snow was an unusual turf for her, and she fell onto her bottom on the frozen ground, her tailbone singing out its protests as stars filled her vision.

Somehow, she bounced back up to find her foe gone. As she squinted in the snow, Spike was by her side with a very-much-alive and dazed-looking Mark. The Watcher was whole, but his clothes were torn – the heavy outerwear having protected him from too much damage.

“You okay, love?” Spike asked. Simple was best in a crisis.

Buffy put her bare hand on his coat-covered arm. Still solid. That was reassuring. “Yeah. Where’d they go?”

“Dunno. Can’t hear them, which is bloody eerie.”

As if on cue, more growls rang out all around them – the snow making them invisible. Great. “We’re surrounded. They’re acting like a pack of wolves or something.”

“Makes sense,” Mark managed. “They hunt together. Regrouping to take us all on at once.”

“Perfect,” Buffy said, moving in front of the vulnerable Watcher as Spike took his back.

The snarling grew more guttural and deeper as they approached. The snowfall was rapid and denser, and there was something in the energy of the sound that resonated like something Buffy rarely experienced before. An ancient force settled heavy in her gut, making her feel like she was dragging down – her body getting more difficult to move. Tiredness overcame her – her brain tugging her toward the precipice of unconsciousness as her eyes closed. She only vaguely knew that her knees crumpled underneath her, and she absurdly wondered if she would soon be headless or would be nearly headless like Nick.  

“Stop!” a voice shouted.

The magic faltered but only for a moment, but when it resumed the tune was interwoven with a strange language that seemed to partner with the sounds almost perfectly. Something lifted ever  so slightly within Buffy, which gave her a foothold to overcome the drive to give in to dreams. When her eyelids sprang open, she discovered that the snow had lightened but not because it had stopped falling hard and fast but because something was forcing the snow to canopy around them like they were in a reverse snow globe. Five unmoving shadowy figures closed in around them, but someone else had joined them.

Rina’s head was high, her hair loose and blowing from some wind that only touched her, and the topaz ring on her finger glowed cerulean, making everything seem more eerie. She was the one chanting in the unfamiliar language – chanting that reminded Buffy of Willow unearthly voice when she cast a massive spell. But there was something different about Rina. She was wavering – her voice starting to hesitate. She wasn’t as powerful as Willow. As she wobbled, the dog-men took shaky, predatory steps toward them, their speed increasing with each second that ticked by.

Buffy’s gaze flew to the ground where she saw the unzipped sack of weapons, her eyes lighting on a large blade. She and Spike exchanged a wordless glance, and they dove for the weapons together as the dog-men escaped the hold on them, and snow began to fall in heavier clumps again. She barely glimpsed Mark rush to Rina’s side as she fell. Buffy and Spike began to advance on their targets, hoping to strike before the other magic could affect them again.

Buffy barely saw anything – effectively blind like when Giles blindfolded her to test her instincts, and she trusted those same instincts now, whirling and kicking, and arcing her weapon to hit her targets. Spike moved around her with ease, and Buffy felt something sing inside her – something that only seemed to happen when she fought side-by-side with him. She almost laughed but didn’t – she retained enough presence of mind that she knew she shouldn’t laugh about something so deadly serious, and somehow, far too quickly, she decapitated the final creature.

Spike glided his right arm around her waist as they lowered their weapons, breathing heavily in the frosty night. He pressed a kiss to her forehead without a word – not even a bit of snark passing his lips. She couldn’t bring herself to pun because all they heard were Rina’s sobs.

Together, she and Spike found a flashlight and then Mark, who was helping the upset Rina to her feet where she leaned heavily against him.

“I-I failed,” she whispered, tears pouring down her cheeks. “One task. My mother left me one task, and I failed.”

“But you didn’t make them kill all those people,” Buffy countered.

“It’s no consolation, I know, but you did the best you could,” Spike added.

Mark hugged her shoulders. “Let’s get out of this weather. Warm up.”

“I, for one, will be glad to get out of this dress,” Buffy said. The sequins were reasserting their irritating itchiness.

“And not very practical for this weather,” Rina managed with a small smile. “Promise you’ll explain who you are?”

“If you do, too,” Mark said, tightening his arm reassuringly around her shoulders.

* * *

Spike held Buffy’s hand as he led them down one of the many tapestry-lined and Christmas-decorated hallways toward his intended destination. Buffy was relaxed and happy and willing to do pretty much anything he wanted now that the mission was over by a couple of days. 

“You know? All these old dressers and wardrobes everywhere?” Buffy pointed at one particularly tall one. “Like that one?”

“They’re hardly old, you know.” He tucked her hand in the crook of his right arm.

“It reminds me of something that if we went through the doors and pushed past all the insides, we’d end up in Narnia on an adventure!” Her voice contained a happy little lilt that Spike wanted to hear more of.

So, of course, he went along with it. “Another adventure already? I’d have thought you’d be all adventured out.”

“I so totally am.” Her shoulders slumped a little in exhaustion. Her eyes were still alive with playfulness. “But maybe we could take a peek in one before we leave?”

Spike chuckled. “Maybe we should.”

She hugged his arm. “We should.” She paused for a heartbeat. “Where are you taking me anyway? I thought you would want to hang out with Rina and Mark all night. You were cleaning up on the poker chips, and we had bottomless hot chocolates with marshmallows within reach. Plus, that hall was really beautiful. And the knight was all. . . knightly and festive with his decorations.”

“I could have, but I planned something a little special since we’re stuck here.”

The hotel had comped everyone’s stay and offered extra free nights, but the clearing near the pub was completely off limits as the authorities investigated the murders. Buffy, Spike, Mark, and Rina had been helpless to get rid of the bodies of the dog-men, and Spike considered that the cops were having a field day with the denial around that one. Luckily, Mark’s magic on their weapons hid them well enough as the police interviewed everyone on what they had seen.

Buffy brought her free hand to her forehead in mock-outrage. “Oh, it’s so tragic to be stuck here of all places.” She was carrying her coat, so it slid down to her elbow, and she almost dropped it. “Oops.”

As Buffy regained her balance, Spike pointed out the obvious. “And I think Rina and the Watcher are – ”

“Smitten?” Buffy grinned. “They soare.” She narrowed her eyes at him as they kept walking. “And you’re matchmaking.” She clasped his arm again. “That’s really sweet.”

“Which part?” He tried to act nonchalant, but she didn’t fall for it.

“Both!” She held her lips up for a kiss.

Spike gladly stopped to acquiesce, deepening the gesture just enough to elicit a tiny moan from her before breaking away.  

An older couple dressed for the type of thing he usually avoided passed them with a disapproving glance. Spike was tempted to push Buffy against the wall and really go at it, but he didn’t.

Buffy didn’t even notice the other couple, and they resumed their journey. “I still don’t understand exactly how it all worked or what happened. I mean, now I get that Rina inherited the legacy of keeping the five dog-men in check from her mother who inherited it from her mother and so on into the past back to when her great-great-great-great-something grandmother had mystical sex with a dog and had ten kids, but why wasn’t Rina able to contain the five she was in charge of?”

The five who had remained in Canada had gone insane while the other five who ran across the frozen water ended up becoming the first Europeans, or as Spike suspected, the origins of the modern werewolf. Rina’s ancestors had trapped and kept the five mentally-challenged Adlets in captivity on Baffin Island for centuries. They’d tried everything (even modern psychiatry) to help them to no avail. The female matriarch of the family had some sort of magical hold over them and were saddled with taking care of them. Legend had it that they’d occasionally escaped to feast on other humans but rarely had they traveled as far as Banff. 

“The Watcher thinks that the magic that Rina’s ancestors channeled diminished with each passing generation and that Rina just couldn’t hold them.”

“She’s lucky.” Buffy pressed her lips together and glanced forward.

“How’s that?”

“She has this sacred duty that she was stuck with. Now, they’re dead, and she gets to be free.” Spike wasn’t sure what to make of Buffy’s tone – not quite sad and not quite envious. Before he could comment, she continued, “Kinda like me.” She offered him a half-smile. “Sort of.”

Spike was silent for a long moment as he thought about how to approach this delicate subject. As they rounded a corner, he decided to go with the truth. “You don’t have to let it be that way. You carry that burden all on your own.” She was about to protest but he kept going. “Hold on. Yes, you played a role in making things the way they are now with all the bitty Slayers, but there are always positives with the negatives. And one of those positives is that you get to choose, and if I have it my way, you’ll let yourself off the hook for all the negatives.”

Buffy looked deflated. “I don’t know if I can.”

“Own them but don’t punish yourself so hard for them because you can’t change the past.”

“Maybe at some point I might be able to let myself. . .” This time, her smile touched her eyes. “Live my own life. With you.”

The irony of her words was not lost on Spike, and he returned her smile. “Good.”

“And d-hey! Why are we headed toward the spa?” She bounced a little. “Did you buy us a couples massage? Because that facial I got? It didn’t do diddly for my complexion.”

“No. Do I look like I’m made of money?” He protested, tugging her past the spa entrance. “And any massaging should be done by each other.”

Buffy gave him a speculative glance. “I don’t want to know how you got free passes, do I?”

“I got them fair and square,” he insisted, feeling defensiveness-of-old as only a slight sting in the back of his heart.

“By flirting!” She hit him with her hip – saucy woman.

“Can’t blame a fellow if a lady takes a little innocent question about locations as flirting. . . though I don’t think she did.”

“Uh huh.”

Spike put his nose in the air out of indignation. “I’m a loyal bloke.”

Buffy slid her fingers down his arm and pushed her fingers through his. “Now that I know.” They passed the workout center. “I guess we’re not working out.”

He lifted an eyebrow at her, his voice deepening. “Not yet anyway.”

The entrance to the large indoor swimming pool loomed. Lots of guests were inside, enjoying the water and lounging in the chairs beside the water. Laughter and conversation filled the air as they entered the space. 

“You’re taking me to the pool?” she whispered. “But I don’t have a swimsuit and the shop is closed.”

Spike searched for the staff member he’d spoken with earlier. He was supposed to hold onto the. . . aha, there he was. Spike dragged Buffy over to the man.

Jake greeted him with a wide grin and held out the requested items. “Here you go, sir.”

Spike accepted the package and two large towels. “Thank you.” He passed the man a tip.

Jake nodded and gave him a little two-fingered salute before heading toward a group who had signaled him from the pool in need of more drinks.

Buffy eyed the logo on the bag. “You bought me a swimsuit?”

Spike smiled and passed her the bag. “Maybe.”

“How do you know it’ll fit?”

The words popped out before he thought about them. “I’ve been buying ladies’ gifts for over a century. Said gifts included clothing.”


Luckily, Buffy took his faux pas well because she was teasing when she said, “Not what I wanted to hear.”

Spike lifted a shoulder. “And maybe I peeked at your tags when you moved into my room.”

Unfortunately, they had to change clothes in separate dressing areas because appearances and all, but Spike didn’t mind too much because when Buffy came out in the two-piece he’d picked for her, she was stunning – her tan skin glowing against the white fabric, and he had to work hard to hide the growing evidence of his desire for her from showing in the flimsy fabric he was wearing.

She smiled shyly at him. “You did good.” She gave him a onceover. “And you look handsome. Black, of course.”

His swimsuit was black with almost imperceptible charcoal-grey stripes. “Of course.” Buffy was carrying her clothing and boots, and he nodded at her heavy coat. “Now, put that on.”

“What? Why?” Her eyes grew round as saucers as the truth dawned on her. “Are you crazy? It’s like a hundred below out there! And do you see anyone else outside?” She held her hand toward the clear glass windows.

The torrential snow had ceased falling that morning, and the world outside the hotel was coated in a blanket of white. The sun had just completed its daily march across the sky and had settled down below the mountains, leaving behind only bands of pinks and yellows and oranges.

“They’re all a little afraid to go out now, but that’s our time to have a bit of fun. Well, fun for me anyway after being cooped up indoors all day.” He pouted a little.

Buffy of long ago would have punched him in the nose, but now, she only patted his shoulder at the sight of his lower lip. “I enjoy patrolling with you, too.” That was the most she’d say in a room full of strangers, and her words were genuine. “But still – cold! A-and you have me in a skimpy swimsuit!”

“There’s a pool out there, love,” he nudged, done with the banter and wanting her to see the surprise. “It’s a saltwater pool – warm like hot springs. See the steam rising up?”

Buffy moved closer to the windows. “Ohhh. Why is no one out there?”

Spike stood behind her, his arm slinking around her hip. “I’d reckon because they’re all afraid. Headless corpses. Though most people don’t know much about what happened.”

Buffy stepped back into him and shivered with desire. “And the vague is sometimes scarier.”

“Right.”

She took a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s go. You promise it’s warm?”

“I promise.”

There was a fair amount of squealing and laughter as they stepped into the frigid air and hurried to the pool. Buffy threw off her coat and slid rapidly into the water where she sighed with deep happiness. Spike soon joined her, and they bobbed together in the warm liquid.

“You were right,” Buffy said, smiling at him. “It’s perfect. Warmer than a warm bath and cooler than a hot tub. Just right.”

“We won’t stay long because I don’t want you to get too cold, and I don’t know how long the staff will let us be out here considering everything that’s happened, but I wanted you to have something special.”

Buffy spun slowly around – her long damp hair arcing behind her, and Spike watched her take in the white-laden evergreen trees, the snow-capped mountains, and the color-streaked sky. “It’s breathtaking.”

Spike only had eyes for Buffy. “It is.”

She caught him watching her, and she swam close to him, wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. She pressed a gentle kiss on his lips and drew back. “Thank you for this if I forget to tell you later.”

He nudged his forehead against hers. “We should do things like this more often.”

“Like what?”

“Take a vacation.”

“We should.” Buffy’s expression became thoughtful. “Mark and I were talking earlier while we were waiting for Rina to show up.”

“Oh, yeah?” Spike wasn’t jealous – just curious.

“Yeah. We talked about me being a Slayer among many and what I wanted to do with my life now. I mean, I had a thought about it at one point, but things kind of busy.”

Spike tucked a half-wet/half-dry strand of hair behind Buffy’s ear. “Your wants and needs got overshadowed again.”

She nodded. “I told him that I’m a Slayer – that it’s in my blood, but that’s not exactly right. I-I mean, I’m more than that.”

“Of course you are.”

“And you’re more than a vampire.”

“Gee, thanks, pet.”

“And together – we’re more than either piece alone.”

Spike wanted to kiss her then, but he forced himself to hold back because he wanted to hear what she had to say. “Go on,” he nudged.

“A-and remember how you’re my home?” She gazed up at him with her big green eyes.

Spike could never hear that enough times, and he could drown in those eyes. “Got the sign you gave me. Take it wherever we go.”

“Well, I think I might want to settle down somewhere. With you.”

“Done traveling then?” Relief spread through his chest. Truth be told, he was tired of it, too. He’d meant what he’d told her in Sunnydale right before the big collapse; he had been everywhere and seen everything. He just wanted to be with her wherever she might want to be and if she’d continue to have him, but being in one place sounded. . . nice.

“I’m pretty sure.” She lifted her head in determination. “I am. If you’re okay with that. The settling down piece. Maybe not forever. I don’t know yet. At least a little while.”

He cupped her cheek then, the warm water splashing softly. “I go where you go, love.” He detected movement in his peripheral vision then, and his eyes flicked in that direction to view the source of the shift in the trees. He froze and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Don’t make any sudden movements.”

Buffy’s eyes widened bigger – if that was possible. She spoke so softly that only he could hear. “More Adlets?”

He gave a minute shake of her head, and she relaxed a fraction. “Turn slowly.”

When Buffy finally made her way around, Spike heard her quiet intake of breath and then, “Ohhhh.”

The doe poked her head hesitantly out from the trees and edged warily toward the water – her movement slow and graceful but with enough tension to dash away if needed. Her soft ears flicking back and forth at random moments as she detected sounds elsewhere in the forest – sounds that even Spike couldn’t hear. He wasn’t sure what she was aiming for until she was almost upon them. Then, he saw the hint of grass peeking out from snow where the heat from the pool and steam had melted it.

The doe paused to study Spike and Buffy for such a long time that he wasn’t sure he could hold still any longer. Then, the deer bowed her head and began licking at the grass for several seconds – her tongue thick and eager.

Buffy found his hand under the water and gripped it in her own. The world seemed frozen in time, and Spike wished he could bottle the magical moment to save for later.

When at last the deer moved away and headed back into the forest, Spike pulled Buffy close and whispered in her ear, “Happy Christmas, pet.”

Buffy turned her head toward his. “Merry Christmas, Spike. I love you.”

The end. 
12-31-18
12:32 AM


This is the map of the hotel: https://www.fairmont.com/uploadedfiles/sites/banff_springs/pdf/bsh_key_to_the_castle_map.pdf
And a description of Adlets: http://mentalfloss.com/article/81818/8-mythical-canadian-monsters

Hope you enjoyed the story! :o) Happy holidays!

Comments

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: December 31st, 2018 09:23 pm (UTC)
Snow Tree

Thanks so much for posting love. :)

Posted by: Double Dutchess (double_dutchess)
Posted at: January 2nd, 2019 04:47 pm (UTC)
Hell of a Woman

Glad to see a better match was made!

Very interesting about the adlets; I had never heard of those. Too bad they managed to make more victims before Buffy and Spike got them.

That saltwater pool sounds fabulous!