The Thin Tartan Line
“Here, this was on the welcome mat,” Spike said as he shouldered past Giles at the door, handing him a plain envelope.
“I don’t have a welcome mat...and hey! Put that out immediately.” Giles pivoted where he stood, watching the vampire stride into his living room with his usual cock of the walk swagger. The cheeky bastard was carrying a crate of beer, dangling from one hand and absurdly, wearing a santa hat pulled down over his head. His cigarette bobbed as he took in a deep drag.
“And get out.” Giles remained where he was, pointedly holding the door open.
The Watcher looked unusually mussed, his hair in spiky tufts where he’d dragged his sweater over his head. It was a charmingly rustic home-made effort, vivid red with a green reindeer mid flight on his chest. A smudge of flour decorated his cheek.
“Well, you should have. Where’s your Christmas spirit?” Spike looked about vaguely for an ashtray and then pinched the end of his cigarette, before tucking it into the fur band on his hat, giving him the air of a dissolute elf.
And he did look surprisingly winsome in his unaccustomed head gear. Giles had never noticed before how nicely shaped his ears were, coming to an elfin point at the tip. They were sticking out slightly, pushed forward by the fur trim. A spontaneous giggle escaped Giles’ lips. Despite the usual black duster, Spike looked....nope, there was no other word for it, he looked downright cute.
“Oho, so you do have some Christmas spirit,” Spike crowed, eyes lighting on a bottle of brandy on the coffee table. He surveyed Giles closely, noting the slightly unfocused eyes and the smudge of flour. “And I’ve got just the thing to get this party started.”
Giles closed the door, giving in to the inevitable. What the hell. It was Christmas eve and Spike was English, at least. Relieved the homesickness a bit. And he seemed to have come bearing gifts, judging by the bottle of expensive whisky he pulled from one of his capacious pockets and set down on the table.
“Like a bloody Tardis, that coat. How many pockets does it have, anyway?”
“Oh, a few,” Spike responded, extricating a small, fully decorated plastic Christmas tree from inside. “Part of my professional toolkit, like.”
He plunked the tree on the mantelpiece, standing back to look at the effect and then straightened the star at the top. “You can thank Walmart for this little beauty. Cheap and cheerful but does the trick.”
Giles snorted derisively and then sniggered as a thought struck him. “You’ve got a hell of a nerve, pushing your way in here bearing stolen goods. Hardly wise, man.” He giggled at his atrocious joke, hehehing under his breath as he tossed the envelope onto the table and retrieved his whisky glass.
Best of the season,” he said, tipping it in Spike’s direction.
“You really have been into the sauce, haven’t you?” Spike looked amused. Not often the Watcher let his hair down. Never, actually. This evening threatened to be fun.
He threw himself down onto the chesterfield and pulled the brandy toward him. “Get me a glass while you’re up?” He smirked fulsomly.
Giles gave him a considering look and then rolled his eyes before walking somewhat carefully toward the kitchen as though the floor was uneven.
“You been cooking?” Spike shouted through and lowered his voice on the last syllable, realizing Giles was back already, holding out a whisky glass.
“What?” Giles frowned and then turned on his heel, sniffing the air. “Oh, buggeration.”
This time he ran, caroming off the wall before disappearing round the corner. The sound of banging reverberated from the kitchen and a burnt sugar smell drifted out.
Giles emerged a couple of minutes later, holding a cookie sheet in his oven-mitt.The smoldering remains of what would have been a very attractive Scottish shortbread sat in the centre. He looked crestfallen.
Spike sat up to have a look, waving the smoke away. “Pity. I like a bit of shortbread at Christmas. Me mum always used to make it.” He looked up at Giles. “The thistle in the centre is a nice touch,” he offered by way of consolation.
Giles sat down beside him, laying the cookie sheet on the fireplace bricks. “It was my grandmother’s recipe. Had it for years.” He refilled his glass, splashing a generous portion into Spike’s as well. “But the bloody oven is temperamental. Give me an Aga any day.”
Spike nodded agreeably, as though he had considered opinions on cookery. He didn’t, being more of a raw foods type of bloke, but it didn’t do any harm to sympathize. Especially tonight.
He sat up again, patting his coat. “Here.” He was holding a tartan packet of Walker’s shortbread.
“Not homemade, but not horrible.” He tore the package open with his teeth, pulling the little tray out. “Help yourself.”
Giles started to giggle again. Twenty minutes ago he had been peaceably puttering about in the kitchen, getting enjoyably drunk by himself, listening to the BBC World Service and things had been okay. Not great, but decidedly okay. And now he was taking a piece of purloined shortbread from a vampire in a Santa hat. He shook his head and held up his glass.
Spike nodded over the rim of his own drink, surprisingly blue eyes smiling at him. Funny how you never looked a vampire directly in the eyes. Animal instinct, Giles supposed, but now that he was, he couldn’t help noticing how...well, pretty wasn’t exactly right for such a clearly masculine presence, but nice. Very nice.
“You going to open the card?” Spike asked, tilting his head toward the envelope on the table.
Giles picked it up. There was no return address or stamp, but his name was written in elegant script across the front.
Not many people knew him by that name, and several of them were dead.
He slid his finger under the flap and pulled out a Christmas card. It was quite large and very sparkly. A typical Victorian Christmas scene--a snowy London street lit by the glow of gas lamps, horse carriages, shop windows festooned with holly garlands, urchins with glowing cheeks running through the throng of top-hatted men and bonneted women.
Inside was a Father Christmas, a lean fellow with an unusually rakish grin, elegant in his fur lined robes. And a seasonal greeting. Merry Christmas. May your wishes come true.
As he scanned the card, looking for the name of the sender a light flashed, momentarily blinding him.
When the red and green spots cleared from his vision, he looked over at Spike who was blinking owlishly.
“Fuck me. What the hell was that?”
Giles looked around. Everything seemed much the same. The fairy lights woven into his ficus sparkled in the corner, the angel he’d suspended over the fireplace swayed delicately in the warm air rising from the fire and the rest of his Christmas cards hung along their ribbon along his mantelpiece, glittering in the firelight.
“No idea.” He gave one more scan around the room, but nothing was out of order.
“Fine then. Ready for more?” Spike was holding the brandy bottle, looking at its depleted contents. He poured the rest into his own glass and opened the whisky.
“$150 a bottle over here. Bloody expensive.” He poured a large measure into Giles' glass. “Don’t know how the natives afford it.”
“About as well as you can, but most of them aren’t as light fingered with the goods.” Giles gave a disapproving frown, savouring the excellent single malt as the fumes filled his nose.
“Hypocrite. You’re going to come over all moral with me while your hind foot is still tapping from the taste? You’re an accomplice, so don’t get all high and mighty.”
Spike looked intolerably smug, but somehow it didn’t bother Giles as it usually would have done. The entire room seem suffused with peace and good humour. He leaned his head on the back of the chesterfield and gazed contentedly at the fire.
Remembering the card still in his hand, he raised it at arm’s length and squinted as if he was trying to make the image come to life.
“This must have been the Christmas of your youth, before you were turned.”
Spike took it from him and gazed intently for a long time. Finally, he gave it back to Giles.
“Something like that.” He gazed at the fire awhile before stirring. “Smug condescending bastards.”
Giles turned his head. “Oh, come on. Don’t pretend you weren’t one of the insufferable middle classes. Your accent slips from time to time, you know.”
Spike shuffled his shoulders irritably. “Not for long. Spend a few decades bringing the fear of...well, let’s just say, their last moments weren’t entirely comfortable.”
“You don’t miss any of it? Just a little?” Giles was curious now. He’d never had the opportunity to ask a vampire about his past. Too busy trying to stake them.
“Nope.” Spike stood and slipped the duster off his shoulders, throwing it over a chair. His pale skin glowed in the lamplight, muscles surprisingly well defined for such a slender man.
Giles let his eyes flick for a second to the front of the tight jeans which he’d always thought were sinfully tight. Or at least, tended to provoke sinful thoughts, considering the significant bulge they revealed. But he refused to dwell on what was underneath. No use going there.
Spike sat down again, putting his boots up on the coffee table. His thighs were rounded and...Giles brought himself up hard. Because he was getting hard for one thing, but mainly to remind himself it was no point going there.
“What about when you were a child. Was there anything you got for Christmas that you really liked?”
Spike raised his glass to his mouth and took a drink, thinking about it.
Then he smiled. “Oh yeah. A set of toy soldiers. Crimean War. 93rd Highlanders.”
He sat up, his habitual street tough chippiness disappearing in a wave of enthusiasm. “I loved those soldiers. Dragged them around for years until they got lost somewhere in our travels.”
He suddenly looked wistful. “I wish....”
The lights dimmed momentarily and both men looked up.
“Must be a storm somewhere. Hope we don’t lose the electricity.”
A faint high-pitched wail emanated from behind them.
Giles looked at Spike. “Um...did you hear that?”
Giles made a pfft sound with his mouth and then listened harder. It did sound like bagpipes.
“Sounds like Johnny Cope to me.”
“Jesus fucking Christ.” Spike was staring at the floor.
Giles struggled to his feet, alarmed by the sudden exclamation. Only to be forced to step aside as a line of miniature soldiers marched past, rifles and bayonets at the ready. The piper gave a last squawk of his pipes and tucked them under his arm.
Raising a sword, a tiny kilted officer bawled an order at the top of his lungs.
The line wheeled right and came to a stop, facing the chesterfield.
In unison, the soldiers broke into a run, tiny knees bobbling under their kilts. Giles tried to remove his bare foot, but he was too late. They surrounded him, jabbing with diminutive bayonets and howling obscene and terrible imprecations at his appendage.
“Owwwww!” Giles drew the slightly bleeding foot up, hopping on the other, but to no advantage as the little highlanders wheeled round and attacked the remaining available flesh, some of them leaping up in flurries of tartan to catch the foot on the upswing.
“Little buggers,” Giles couldn’t seem to get away from them, hampered as he was by the desire not to crush them underfoot.
Spike was thrashing around on the chesterfield, howling, holding his stomach he was laughing so hard.
“B..bloody brilliant,” he gasped, keeping his own feet in the air in case they became a target though his Docs were pretty well immune to damage from anything so small.
“Dance, my pretty one, dance.” His voice was pulled into a mephisto drawl, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“You bastard.” Giles had hopped round the back of the chesterfield, pursued by the soldiers, still screaming at the top of their lungs. “For Christ’s sake, help me. Do something to distract them.”
Spike gasped some more, trying to speak through the gusts of mirth. “Wh-what should I do? Call last orders?” And then he collapsed backwards, slapping his thigh as he lost it once more.
Giles had circled round to the front again, two of the faster highlanders jabbing at his heel. Finally, he jumped up on the cushion, teetering dangerously above Spike who cowered under him, arms over his head, expecting him to fall at any moment.
The soldiers were milling about on the floor, muttering and looking up, shading their eyes against the glare of the lamp. A soldier in a seriously bushy handlebar moustache pointed toward a ribbon left forgotten on the carpet after decorations were put up and two of them broke away to retrieve it.
“What are they going to...?” Spike broke off.
The little men were tying the ribbon to a grappling hook, and shortly after, the spiky object hurtled through the air and sank into the fabric of the chesterfield.
Spike’s eyes met Giles’ in a look of horror. It was like getting attacked by tactical ants.
Giles leapt off the couch first, followed by Spike at the run. And then Spike pulled up short, looking at his feet.
“What the hell am I worried about?” He stamped his boot confidently. Only to leap backwards. The troup had regrouped and were now running toward him. Two of them scrambled over the toe of his Doc and started climbing, hand over hand up the laces.
“Arggh. Get them off me,” Spike yelped backing up and shaking his leg, trying to knock them loose. Now the object of the soldiers’ attention, he was surrounded by the ferocious little celts, swarming up his jeans.
Giles had moved a couple of steps up the staircase to relative safety and leaned over the bannister, smiling broadly.
Spike scrabbled at his pants, trying to get rid of the creatures adhered to his leg, but some of them had a teeth hold on the fabric and were worrying the weave like demented terriers.
“Get them off me. Get them off.”
Giles beamed expansively at his guest.
“You’re on your own, lad. Use a little ingenuity. Surely the big bad scary vampire can deal with a few toy soldiers.” He laughed out loud, enjoying himself entirely too much. “God, if only I had a camera.”
Giles rested his chin on his arm. He couldn’t think of a more entertaining Christmas eve.
The highlanders were advancing toward Spike’s groin. With intent, as far as he could see. Their muscular thighs, perfect down to the hairy skin, flashed as the kilts swung in the ruckus created by Spike’s exertions.
“And even better, the eternal question is answered.” Giles grinned smugly.
Bent over at the waist, Spike was tearing at his boot laces, trying to get his Docs off.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” He managed one boot and then the other.
“What a Scotsman wears under his kilt.” Giles sniggered. “I assure you, your little men are anatomically correct.”
His smirk could have supplied a high school’s worth of teenage boys.
By this time, Spike had unbuttoned his jeans and slithered out of them in one last flurry of frantic activity. Highlanders tumbled to the floor and lay momentarily stunned before scrambling to their feet again.
Giles snorted. “You don’t seem to have advanced your situation much.”
Spike did look significantly more vulnerable, his feet bare and danglies exposed. His hand reflexively dropped to the front to cover them as he looked up at the grinning Watcher. And then he leapt to the stairs in three large steps and climbed over beside him.
The skirl of pipes sounded again. Regroup. The soldiers were in battle formation and had begun a determined advance
The smirk disappeared from Giles’ face.
“Good Lord. They’re after us again.” His feet scuffled, trying to get purchase on the steps and then he was backing up the staircase on his arse, panicked as the soldiers poured up the first riser.
Spike cleared his head in one immense bound, the tantalizing but currently irrelevant family jewels flashing before Giles’ eyes on the way past. The vampire too was anatomically correct, it appeared. He caught up to the half naked man by the top of the landing and hauled himself to his feet.
He pulled Spike into the bedroom and slammed the door. Just in the nick of time. The wood thudded repeatedly as soldiers threw themselves at the obstacle, screaming incomprehensible threats in Scottish accents. Mon thenyeh fuckin erse. Ah’ll wham yeh, yeh fuckin' wee basturt, ah’ll tango on yer puss. And suchlike.
Giles and Spike looked at each other, mystified and shrugged.
“They do sound very angry,” Giles opined.
“You won’t get any argument from me,” his partner in retreat responded.
Spike was looking round the room, noting the comfortable looking bed and the lack of alcohol of any description.
“Fuck. We’re trapped here with nothing to do.”
Giles gave Spike a wry look, letting his eyes drift down. The excitement had sobered him up a little, and kind of stirred him up as well. Evidently it had the same effect on the vampire, as his erection was jutting out from under his t-shirt.
Spike caught the direction of the glance. A slow smile spread across his face and he moved in close, placing his hands on Giles’ arse to bring him in tight. He looked up at the Watcher, tilting his head with a knowing look on his face. His tongue did an arching thing behind his teeth and Giles knew exactly how they were going to pass the time.
Pushing Spike backward toward the bed, he jabbed him with a finger in the middle of the chest, causing the vampire to collapse backward, legs spread wide
“Now that’s a Christmas feast to gladden the eye,” he said as he dropped to his knees.
And spent the rest of Christmas eve most pleasurably.
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