Cryptic Christmas


by
Eliza Shaw







Spike fussed around the crypt, pausing to adjust an ornament on the tree that filled up one corner.  Twinkling lights bounced bright colors off the walls, lending a macabre cheer to the layers of spider webs and dust.  Giles had admonished him to do at least a modicum of cleaning prior to the decorating party, but Spike couldn’t be arsed.  There were only certain lengths he was willing to go to for this little extravaganza, despite the fact that it was his bloody idea.  He refused to be left with a spotless floor and walls once the holiday cheer came down.  Hardly fitting for a demon of his caliber.  Besides, he couldn’t let on how much this event mattered to him.

 

The Scooby gang minus Xander had spent the better part of the sunny July afternoon transforming the old crypt into a Christmas-y wonderland.  Buffy and Riley strung lights and hung the plastic evergreen boughs while Willow and Tara had laid out the holiday treats from eggnog to a gingerbread house.  Granted, the nog had more cream in it than rum and the gingerbread house would be condemned by Santa’s fair housing committee, but Spike couldn’t complain.  After all, they’d agreed to go along with the plan.  Something he hadn’t been willing to bet on when he first suggested it.  In fact, they hadn’t been willing to go along until Giles stepped in and lent his support.  To that end, Giles brought a selection of Christmas albums and the necessary record player. 

 

Now the crypt stood ready, the gang had dispersed with promises to return at the appointed hour, and Spike felt the anxiety settle in again.  What had he been thinking?  This was never going to work.  He shifted the lid of the tomb in the center of the room and pulled out the brightly wrapped package.  The paper featured Santa replete in Hawaiian shirt and shorts surfing.  Utterly ridiculous, and utterly Xander.   Or so Spike hoped.  He ran a hand over the package and grimaced.  Maybe he should just clear out.  Tonight wasn’t about him, and the party could go on without a high-strung vampire torn between hiding and revealing his growing infatuation with one young human.  Fuck.  He sighed and rummaged in the tomb for the bottle of whiskey buried beneath all the other personal junk he’d ‘cleaned’ out of the way in deference to the decorating.  Setting the present aside, he took a long pull from the bottle.  Pull yourself together, mate.  You’ve come this far.  No good pulling out now.

 

 

~~~Two weeks earlier~~~

 

Silence greeted the vampire’s announcement.  He shifted uncomfortably in the doorway to Gile’s flat.  The de-invite spell hadn’t been lifted once it went back in place after the storming of the Initiative.   Spike tried not to take offense at that.  He understood their reluctance to let him in again.  Hadn’t worked out well for them the first time.  Plus, he couldn’t have them knowing he cared about being kept out.  So he slouched casually in the doorway, taking another drag on his cigarette as he watched faces shift from shock to suspicion. 

 

“Okay, and I thought you couldn’t get weirder after the whole buying Miss Kitty Fantastico a catnip-stuffed vampire bat to play with,” Buffy rolled her eyes and leaned closer to Riley as they stood against the back of the couch.

 

“Liked it, didn’t she?”  Spike shot back defensively, glancing at the witches sitting at the breakfast far.  Tara gave him a small kind smile.  He let his glance slide away.  He liked that one, but had a feeling she saw more than she was telling. 

 

“That is so not the point.”  Buffy stood and strode over to face off against the vampire.  “You’re up to something.  And we’re not interested.”

 

“I’m not up to anything, Slayer.” Spike tossed his cigarette to the ground and toed it out.  “You’re paranoid.”

 

“Oh, and that wasn’t you plotting our deaths with Adam.”  She cocked her head.

 

“That was never about you lot.  That was between him and me and this bleeding government chip in my skull.”  Spike spoke through clenched teeth, unsure whether he hated Buffy or himself more at the moment. 

 

“Spike.  Buffy.” Giles stepped between them.  “As fascinating as this is, can we get back to Spike’s request?”

 

“Yeah, um, why exactly do you want us to help you throw a Christmas party?”  Incredulity colored Willow’s question.  “And you better tell us the truth, mister.”

 

“S’not for me.  Told you.  It’s for the boy.  He’s been down, and he never gets a real Christmas.  Thought it would cheer ‘im up.”  Spike scuffed his toe against the tile and didn’t look at them.

 

“What do you know about Xander and Christmas?”  Willow narrowed her eyes suspiciously.

 

“He told me.  You lot put me in that basement with him.  Hard to miss the Harris family dramas goin’ on overhead.  So we got to talkin’ one night, and maybe drinkin’ a bit, and he told me.  Big family fights, sleepin’ outside and all that.”

 

“So knowing that, you thought you’d what, just throw him a little Christmas in July party to make up for that?”  Buffy crossed her arms.  “Now why don’t I believe that.”

 

“I….I think it’s k..kinda sweet,” Tara offered.  Willow flashed her a proud smile.

 

“Who would have thought William the Bloody could do ‘sweet’?” Riley mocked.

 

“Look, are you gonna help or not?”  Spike clamped down on his urge to inflict violence on Buffy’s soldier boy.  Whereas he had begun to enjoy working with the other Scoobies—not that he’d ever admit to that—he couldn’t stand the ex-Initiative git.  He could see “Hostile 17” cross the man’s mind in every encounter, and he knew that Riley would gladly stake him at the first opportunity.

 

“Spike.  You may have proven yourself a help in patrolling and even in researching the various demon population of Sunnydale, but you must admit that this is a more than unusual request.” Giles began polishing his glasses.  He had his suspicions about Spike’s current behavior, but didn’t want to confront the vampire in front of the others. 

 

“Never mind.  Clearly a mistake on my part thinkin’ you lot would care about doin’ something nice for the boy.” He pushed himself off the wall and turned to leave.

 

“Please do stop being melodramatic.” Giles sighed and put his glasses back on. He could see that pursuing the topic too deeply would get them nowhere, and Spike was right in noticing Xander’s less than enthusiastic participation these days.  Since Anya left him following the destruction of the Initiative, he had been present but not really present.  He still showed up for meetings, but contributed little except to fight with particular violence during patrols.  Otherwise the group hardly saw him.  Perhaps this would be one way to indicate their care, although it still startled Giles that it was Spike who suggested such an action.

 

“Where did you anticipate holding this, er,  holiday gathering?”  Giles posed.

 

“M’crypt, I guess,” Spike shrugged.  “Not like I can get in anywhere else.”

 

“All the more reason to have it somewhere else,” Buffy offered sweetly.

 

“Buffy,” Willow shot her friend a look, “it was his idea.  It would be, well, rude I guess, if he couldn’t be there.”

 

“Now we’re worried about being rude to vampires?”  Riley burst out.  “What happened to just straight-out killing them?”

 

“This is Spike,” Willow argued, “we can’t just stake him.  Besides, he’s all harmless now.”

 

“No thanks to you wankers,” Spike snarled at Riley, “And I’m not harmless.  You’d do well to remember that.”

 

“Yes.  We do remember that, Spike, which explains our reticence when it comes to your plan.”  Giles explained, hoping to forestall the usual argument that arose whenever Spike chose to make an appearance.

 

“Look, in or out.  I’ve not got all night.  Places to go.  People to kill and all that”  Spike wanted the conversation to end before Xander showed up.  The last thing he needed was the boy finding out about the surprise, regardless of whether it would happen or not.  His hatred for vampires was legendary, and it was that hatred that threatened Spike more than any of Riley’s blustering.  He didn’t want to admit that it hurt him as well.

 

Giles studied the tense figure in the doorway.  In the quiet following the destruction of the Initiative, he had taken time to go back and reread earlier Watchers’ journals to glean any information available about William the Bloody.  By all accounts, the vampire had never lived in isolation.  Throughout his long unlife, he had always been surrounded by a vampire family.  Now, Giles knew, the vampire lived completely isolated from the demon community due to his chip and isolated from the human community due to his demonic nature.  Watching him hang around the Scoobies more and more, Giles suspected that Spike was once again looking to fill his need for family, whether the vampire consciously recognized it or not.  To concede to his request now would mean encouraging that effort.   He took in the carefully projected nonchalance.  Underneath the vampire practically vibrated with need.  Giles resisted the urge to take off and polish his glasses again.  He had to make a decision, and it had to be now.  Could he trust Spike with the lives of these children?

 

“Hey, not-so-evil undead, move it or lose it,” Xander limped down the stairs and passed through Giles doorway.  He glanced around at the silent faces.  “What’s the what?”  Gazes shifted away from him to Spike.

 

“Sod this.” Spike turned in a swirl of duster and stalked off.

 

“Spike!” Taking in Xander’s bleak expression and the limp that he’d earned through a particularly reckless move during last night’s patrol, Giles called after the disappearing figure.  The slumped shoulders of the vampire as he stopped without turning around made up his mind.  “Your terms are agreeable.  Come back tomorrow night and we’ll discuss it.” 

 

“Right then,” Spike offered before disappearing into the night.  He never turned back.  Wouldn’t do to let the wankers see the grin spreading across his face.

 

 

~~~Present Day~~~

 

Xander stuffed his hands deeper in his pockets as he made his way across the cemetery.   He grumbled under his breath about being the slayer’s glorified messenger boy.  He snorted.  Hardly glorified.  Just a messenger boy sent out to deliver this week’s round of charity blood to the chipped vampire lurking harmlessly in the cemetery.  He shifted his backpack and gripped the stake in his hand a little tighter.  It would be just his luck to get mugged and drained because some stupid fledge scented the blood in his pack.  Could vamps even smell bagged blood when it was still sealed?  Xander shuddered.  He really didn’t want to find out.

 

Reaching Spike’s crypt, Xander banged on the door.  Spike grinned on the other side and placed his gift on the top of the tomb.  He had asked Giles to send the boy over a bit early, but didn’t tell him why.  Wasn’t any of the watcher’s business if Spike wanted to give the boy a gift without the rest of them around.  None of those other wankers were bringing one, and what was Christmas without pressies?  Spike took a deep unnecessary breath and opened the door just enough to peek out.

 

“Yeah?” he asked curtly, stifling the grin that threatened at the sight of Xander.

 

“Delivery,” Xander said.  He shoved the stake in his back pocket and shrugged off the backpack.

 

“Not out here, ya git.  Bring it inside.”  Spike turned, leaving Xander to push the door open and follow him inside.

 

“You know you could…” Xander broke off as he took in the twinkling lights and festive decorations.  The gentle carols of a choir floated from Giles’s record player.  Spike couldn’t help but smile at the dumbfounded look on the boy’s face. 

 

“Spike?”  Xander whispered.  Confusion marred his features.  He dropped the backpack on the floor.  He turned to see the vampire grinning at him, and his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

 

“Did that chip finally really fry your brain?”  He moved closer, as though to inspect Spike’s sanity by staring in his blue eyes.  “You do know it’s July, right?  As in the opposite of December.  You know that month when Christmas is?” 

 

Staring into those deep brown eyes, Spike found himself dry-mouthed and at a sudden loss for words.  Somehow the quips he had anticipated failed to come to mind.

 

“Spike?”  Xander lowered his voice in concern at the vampire’s silence.

 

Spike gave up on subterfuge and reached out a pale hand to stroke Xander’s cheek.  “Just wanted to give you a nice Christmas,” he murmured, unable to break the gaze as it grew more intense. 

 

Xander began to grin back and he shook his head.  “For me.  You did all this for me?”  He glanced around the crypt again.  His eyes landed on the garishly wrapped box.  “And presents??” 

 

“Present.  And your mates helped some,” Spike admitted.  “They’ll be along.”  At Xander’s quizzical look, he continued embarrassed, “Just wanted you to myself for a bit.”  He covered up his discomfort at the admission by striding over to the table, grabbing the box, and shoving it at the stunned human.

 

“S’nothing much.” He shrugged as Xander took the box.

 

“Spike,” Xander forced his brain to work through the fog that seemed to be slowing him down, “you hate me.”

 

Spike shook his head.  “Nah.  Never really hated you.  Hated that basement,” he smirked, “but didn’t hate you.  Just knew you hated me, so not much point in the niceties, is there.”  He walked across the crypt to dig cigarettes and a lighter out of his pockets, avoiding Xander’s intense gaze.

 

“Gonna open that?”  He turned and gestured at the box with his lit cigarette.

 

“Oh, um, yeah,” Xander fumbled with the package as he tried to make sense of his host’s words.  He grinned at the surfing Santas for a brief second before tearing the paper off.  Underneath, he uncovered a smooth dark wood box the size of a large phonebook.  He spared a glance at Spike before opening the box.  He could see the vampire’s uncertainty beneath the casual pose.  Turning his attention back to the gift, he discovered the inside of the box lined with deep blue velvet that cushioned four long gleaming knives, each made of different materials.  One copper, one silver, one steel, and one stone.  Xander ran a finger reverently over the blades.  He lifted a wonder-filled gaze.

 

“Why?”

 

“Thought it was about time you had some weapons of your own.  You’d think Rupert would make sure someone ‘sides the Slayer had some.  Protect yerself and all that.  There weren’t nothing of use in that basement,” he snorted.

 

“Hey.  Those tools worked out pretty good, I’ll have you know.  If I remember right, you thought they were dangerous enough when you threatened me with a wrench.”  He spoke the words without venom and continued to finger the soft velvet. 

 

Spike ground out his cigarette and sidled closer.  “So you like?”

 

“Yeah,” Xander’s full smile burned into Spike’s undead heart.  “I like.”  He set the box down on the table, turning away as that blue-eyed gaze caused his breath to hitch.  “I like a lot,” he continued intensely.  Spike raised an eyebrow as he sensed Xander’s arousal.  Hmm.  So blades did it for the boy, did they? 

 

Spike moved directly behind the human and leaned close to whisper in his ear.  “Merry Christmas, Xan.”

 

Xander swallowed past the lump in his throat.  Only on the Hellmouth could the best Christmas he ever had come in July in a vampire’s crypt.  He held his breath and leaned back into the vampire’s cool chest.

 

“Merry Christmas, Spike,” he whispered back.

 

They stood there for several long moments, just leaning against one another in silence.  Spike let the scent of the boy fill his senses while Xander concentrated on the solid, comforting presence of the vampire pressed against him.  For the first time since Anya left, he began to feel the desolate loneliness lift.

 

Sharp rapping on the crypt door startled them out of the moment.  They jumped apart.

 

“Cavalry’s arrived,” Spike said shortly.  He berated himself for inviting the rest of the Scoobies, but he wanted Xander to have the perfect Christmas, and that meant including his friends.  Spike moved to open the door.  Xander took in the disappointment that flashed across the vampire’s face before his features settled into his usual nonchalance.  Unexpectedly, he found himself disappointed to see Spike’s Big Bad persona slide into place.  He reached out to grab Spike’s arm.

 

“You’ve got the lights and music and presents working here, blondie, but you forgot one more Christmas tradition.”  At Spike’s confusion, Xander pointed up.  Spike followed his gesture and grinned at the mistletoe hanging over the crypt door.  He moved forward to press cool lips against warm ones.  Both men quivered as desire sparked.  Pounding on the crypt door broke the moment once more.

 

Spike rested his forehead against Xander’s shoulder, gathering himself to face the others.  Xander chuckled and dropped a kiss on the soft blond head.  “Now that’s Christmas.”

 

“Next week we do New Year’s,” Spike promised. 

 

“Alone,” Xander agreed as he flung open the door.

 







The End







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