A story about Spike and Christmas.
Darla watched as the boy prowled round the room. She could see he was itching to pull back the heavy curtains to see if the final light of day had gone. "He tires me. Why can't he just sit and wait like the rest of us?"
Angel looked up from nuzzling Dru's neck. "No patience. No finesse. Boring. I still don't understand why you wanted him, my sweet."
Dru wriggled closer on his lap. "You won't play all the time, Daddy. Spike's all mine. We play games, lots of games. Such pretty, nasty games."
Angel stood up abruptly, barely glancing down to where Dru had fallen on the bare wooden floor. "Come away from the damned window! I'll not be telling you again."
Spike spun round, his eyes feverish with excitement. "It's dark now. Why can't we go?" He raised a hand to the edge of the curtain then growled and vamped out as Angel's hand clamped down on his, twisting the wrist.
"I said no!"
"Boys, boys!" Darla drawled from where she was laying on the sofa. She didn't mind them fighting; in fact she enjoyed watching, especially when the blood ran free, but tonight was too important for them to get distracted. "You can't beat him, Spike. He's too big and too fast. So stop being so – irritating."
Spike's face returned to normal. The sweetness of his smile as he bent his head in obedience belied the thoughts churning through his mind. One day he'd be stronger, one day he'd be faster, one day he'd want it more than Angel, then they'd all see.
But for now… He returned to the window and this time Angel didn't stop him pushing the heavy velvet drapes aside. It was snowing! Great fat flakes settling on the street outside. The street lamps were on and across the green, the vast doors of the Cathedral stood open, light and sound flooding out in a great golden rush. The organ was playing; Spike could hear the Christmas music even this far away. Happy laughing people were walking towards the light. So many of them! Lovely, juicy people, full of hot red blood. He could almost taste them on his lips, in his mouth.
Christmas Eve! It had always been his favourite day. Church, decorating the tree, presents from loved ones. He loved presents. Surreptitiously he felt in his pocket for the tiny parcel he'd wrapped that morning – a jet necklace he'd taken off a late night snack. Black jet for his black princess. Upstairs, hidden under the bed, were a bottle of brandy for Liam and a lace handkerchief for Darla. Excitement fizzed through him as he wondered what he would receive in return.
He spun round, anxious to be out and killing, then froze. The three of them were standing in a circle, arms linked, heads together, not speaking, just – being. Close, complete, shutting him out.
And with a flash of reality as cold as the snow outside, William the Bloody realised there would be no gifts for him this Christmas – or ever again.
The little room leading off Xander's basement was bleak at the best of times. It stank of socks, cheap after-shave and – well, Spike knew that third smell only too well and it wasn't chestnuts roasting by an open fire!
He lay on the bed in the dark and scowled up at the ceiling. The door was ajar and the crack of brightness coming through was flashing red and green from the lights Xander had strung round his bed. Bloody Christmas! Spike hated it. He'd always hated it. Stupid carols, tinsel, giving presents to people who couldn't care less about you even if you loved and desired them.
Sodding Thanksgiving Day had been bad enough, what with being attacked by Indians and spending days tied up in Giles' bath! But at least there had been people around, noise, chat – even being called an evil waste of space was, well, sort of comforting. Made him feel almost normal again. If he was honest - which he admitted was not one of his foremost virtues - he'd been on his last legs when the Slayer and her gang of idiots had taken him in and fed him.
But now it was Christmas Day. He'd been told to stay here. On no account was he to leave the basement – that had been Buffy's last Christmas message to him. Yeah, full of good cheer that bint was!
Spike tapped his boots together, beating out a rhythm of anger. He'd sort of thought he and the Whelp might have a Christmas drink together. Not that he could stand Xander, but the booze tasted the same whoever you drank it with. But Xander had left his parents getting steadily sloshed upstairs and fled to his beloved Buffy's house. Even Willow had apparently decided that being Jewish was no real excuse not to join them for videos and popcorn.
"I bet Wanker Giles will be there as well," Spike thought viciously. "Doing the big English gent thing for Joyce. Bet he takes her flowers. Shop bought, wrapped in cellophane. She'll hate them! Joyce is a wild flowers sort of woman. Like her daughter…."
Not that Spike wanted anything to do with any of them, of course. The less he saw of the Slayer and her Watcher the better. It was, of course, the chip in his head that was making him feel miserable. Big Bads didn't do miserable. They didn't feel sorry for themselves or wonder what the future held in store for a vampire who couldn't kill or feed.
He swung his feet off the bed and sat, head buried in his hands, his fingers searching under the bleached curls for an outline, a roughness of the skin, anything to tell him where the chip was. But there was nothing. It had been buried too deep in his brain. With a growl, he flung himself out of the room, crashed up the basement stairs and out into the night. If he thought about it any more, he'd go mad. God, he needed a drink.
He hadn't meant to go anywhere near Ravello Drive, but it was on his way to Willie's Bar. Well, if you walked the long way round town it was but, he reasoned, he needed the exercise, needed to keep in fighting trim in case he found a way to get the chip out.
Little flickers of white sparkled around the porch. Spike sidled up to the house and peered through the window. He could see his mortal enemies laughing, talking, unwrapping gifts. Well, that was one good reason not to knock on the door - not that he'd been going to, of course. He couldn't remember the last time he'd given anyone a Christmas present and he wasn't going to start now.
He wandered round to the back garden – grass and trees and bushes - it was a garden and he had no idea why they insisted on calling it a yard. He wasn't sure why he was hanging around except that it was always useful to check out your enemy's home ground. Mark out places where you could lie in wait, ambush her unexpectedly, make her see –
He drew back into the shadows as the door opened and Buffy appeared. "Spike? I know you're out there! I can sense you, stupid vamp. Look, go back to Xander's. I told you to stay there. I haven't got time to chase you round Sunnydale. Not today! It's Christmas." And she flounced back inside and slammed the door.
Spike fought back an overwhelming urge to rush forward, smash down the door and kill everyone inside. The chip fired briefly and he clutched his head. "Sodding hell! Can't I even think of killing her?" But regardless of the pain it would still be worth it. Except – it would ruin her Christmas Day and somehow he couldn't do that, even to the Slayer.
Slouching away through streets that were as empty as he was, he quickened his pace as he passed the church. He could hear carols playing, people singing. Nice warm, juicy people who were completely safe tonight. It was so unfair. He didn't even have enough money to buy pig's blood. He'd go hungry until Xander came home and even then it would be some stale cold pizza thrown in his direction. He might even starve to death before then.
He stumbled slightly to avoid a bloody great wooden display some wanker had left on the pavement which he refused to call a sidewalk, even in his mind. He thrust out a hand to stop himself falling and felt it disappear into hay that felt warm on his cold fingers. Looking down, he realised he was staring at the Nativity Scene, his hand was curled round the manger. He started to pulled it away. Not a cross, of course, but there was a tingling on his skin he didn't like – not one bit.
He gazed down at the stupid china doll lying in the hay. Donkeys, sodding shepherds, old geezers carrying presents…..the one on the end nearest the baby was holding four dollars in a little pile in his hands….
Afterwards Spike always swore to himself that he'd robbed the crib, that hey, he was evil personified, chip or no chip. But in the dead of the night, his stomach warmed by the blood the money bought, he knew the coins had fallen into his hand of their own accord. It was the first present he could remember anyone giving him for a very long time and for some stupid reason, which he was certain was to do with the chip, he kept recalling another church, a bitterly cold day, his mother sitting at his side, coughing gently and the droning voice of a parson saying,
"If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? ?And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray."
The argument had been raging throughout the long evening. Spike shut himself in the basement and tried not to listen to the row blazing away all over the house. But Dawn in full on, high volume anger was hard to ignore. He looked up as footsteps sounded on the stairs. Xander hurried down, a hunted expression on his face. He paused when he saw Spike lying on his bed, then shrugged and perched on top of the washing machine.
"Any port in a storm?" Spike drawled.
Xander nodded briefly. "I think Buffy's announcement was just one step too far for Dawnie and the Potentials. No Christmas!" He pulled a face. "Buffy sounded like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood. 'Cancel Christmas!'" He sighed. "She's about as popular now upstairs as the Sheriff of Nottingham!"
Spike tried not to recall a memorable bloodstained night spent in the Lace Market in Nottingham. These memories would always keep coming, he knew that. But that didn't make them any easier to deal with. "Slayer must have her reasons."
Xander shrugged. "No money, no time and no interest seems to be the general opinion. Dawn and the girls can cope with no money – they've been making paper chains out of newspaper for days now – and The First has been quiet for over a week now so we might have the time – but no interest – that's what's causing the trouble."
"She's got a lot on her mind."
Xander stared down at him. "Trust you to take her side! But then, I don't suppose Christmas means a lot to a vampire – even one with a nice new soul – or do you get your old one back, but a little the worse for wear?"
Spike didn't reply. The time when Xander could annoy him had long since passed. He glanced across at him – he sat, drubbing his heels against the side of the washing-machine, overweight, his hair too long, his skin too greasy. But, and to Spike it was a big but, he was still here, still backing the Slayer, even though his skills in a big fight were nil. He swung himself upright, suddenly alert. "Buffy's coming."
Xander felt the jolt of surprise that he'd felt so often when confronted by the vampire's superior hearing. And he was right. The door at the top of the stairs swung open, Dawn's yelling could be plainly heard as Buffy came down into the basement. He winced at her expression. There was no way he was going to get into an argument with the Slayer right now.
"OK – well, I'll leave you two to talk. Battle plans and schemes and Slayery things. I need to find Anya and…." His voice died and he scurried away, the door slamming shut, cutting out the angry sounds from above.
Spike stared at the girl he loved so dearly. God she looked tired! As if every step she took would be the last before she sunk to the floor and stayed there. And when had she become so thin? Her skin was transparent from weariness and he knew instinctively that she hadn't been eating.
"Sounds as if the next apocalypse has hit town early."
Buffy sighed. "I suppose you're going to tell me that forgetting about The First and celebrating Christmas this year is a good thing? Geez, let's all ignore the fight and staying on our guard and rush around buying presents, making cookies and finding the only Christmas tree left in the whole of Sunnydale! I'm sure the First will be only too happy to sit quietly and wait until the New Year! Why can't Dawn grow up? If we don't concentrate, every second of every day, The First will win. I can't afford the luxury of Christmas – for any of us!"
"It's not just Dawnie, though, is it? Didn't I hear Kennedy and a couple of the other girls giving you their opinions at the top of their voices?"
Buffy sat next to him on the bed, rubbing her arms to get warm. Spike fought back the temptation to hold her. After all, there was no warmth to be had from his body.
"The others are just cross because they'll miss having presents. Dawn keeps on and on about what we used to do when mom was alive. Singing carols after Christmas Eve supper; taking turns to put the fairy on top of the tree, the eggnog mom used to make, even the wretched wreath we hung on the door."
"And that's wrong because…..?"
Buffy smashed her clenched fist down, oblivious that it was his knee she had punched and not her own. "Because it never happened! All her memories are just – smoke and mirrors. Oh, I can recall her being there, I can remember the fun and laughter and loving, but none of it's true! Dawn wasn't there, my memories are false and that means – "
She stopped and Spike realised she was fighting not to cry. "That means my real memories of mom and dad and me are gone. I won't ever know what happened to me because that's all been wiped away. Oh, I don't blame Dawn. None of this is her fault, I just wish she wouldn't keep on and on about Christmas and how perfect it used to be. Because if it was perfect, then I'll never know." Her voice echoed round the basement and died away.
Spike looked at the thin shoulders that carried so much. None of them would ever come close to knowing the pressure this girl lived with each day and night of her life. He knew he couldn't give her back the Christmasses from her past, but surely there must be something he could offer, because wasn't that what Christmas was all about? Giving. He frowned. Where had that idea come from? He didn't give, if you did you were likely to have your gift thrown back in your face. "Can you spare me half an hour?"
Buffy turned, puzzled. Spike never asked her for anything. "Of course."
It was midnight by the time they had driven up the winding roads out of Sunnydale to the hills above. Spike drove into the rough area cut into the hillside where countless courting couples had parked over the years. It was empty, a scutter of wastepaper and old leaves blowing emptily in the breeze. Without speaking he took Buffy's hand and led her to the edge where they could gaze out over Sunnydale. The sky above was clear, dotted with a myriad of icy stars.
"What are we doing up here, Spike? I've seen Sunnydale before, you know. Hey, Hellmouth!"
"What do you see, Slayer?"
Buffy sighed but left her hand in his. "Darkness, too much darkness. No lights, no noise, fear. Everyone who hasn't left town will do any day now."
Spike pointed. "There's one light down there. On the other side of town."
Buffy peered and calculated the distances. "Hey, that's my home! It must be. Yes, one dim light, all on its own. How sad is that?" She tugged her hand from his and turned away.
Spike caught her and pulled her against him, her back against his chest, her hair tickling his lips. He tightened his grasp. "You see one light, I see a spark to ignite a fire that will consume everything in its path. I see hope for the future. That's what you give people all the time, Buffy. What you've given them your whole life. And that's what Christmas is all about. Hope. It's your strongest weapon. You give Dawn and Kennedy and all the Scoobies a hope that we'll win against the First and perhaps we will.
"No one can give you back the memories the monks washed away, Slayer, just as no one can wipe out all the horror of mine. All we can do is make new ones every year and hope the good ones will stay with us and the bad ones not bother us too much."
Buffy stared down the hill to where the single light was valiantly trying to defeat the surrounding darkness. How did Spike always know how to get round her defences?
She gave people hope? Shyly she considered what he'd said. If it was true, then she hadn't completely failed. Then she sighed and relaxed against the strength of the man she knew would always have her back. "You'll have to cope with making sticky paper chains and Dawn on a sugar high," she warned softly. "Giles always insists on reading chapters from A Christmas Carol and I won't even begin to tell you about Xander and Willow and their traditions!"
Spike tightened his arms round her for just a second, burying his face in her hair until what was left of his common-sense returned. They were friends, allies, no more than that.
Buffy broke away and headed back to the car. She opened the door, then suddenly spun round and, to Spike's amazement, she was laughing. "You realise The First will think we've all gone completely mad!"
"Bonus, then, pet."
"Next year I'll make Mom's eggnog. You'll love it!"
Spike paused before getting behind the wheel. His head was spinning and the breath he didn't need to take was catching in his throat. Next year! She expected him to still be around, still in her company next year. And as they drove back down into the darkness, the vampire smiled. He reckoned his love had just given him the best Christmas present he would ever have.