Phoenix

by
Whichclothes

“We didn’t have all the plastic shite when I was human.”

“I know.”

“The trees were real trees then, and we had candles, not garish-colored little bulbs.”

“I know,” Xander repeated, and grinned up at his vampire, who was reaching to set a white and gold angel atop the enormous tree. “But the city won’t let us have real candles.”

“Bloody fire code.”

“Safety first, oh flammable one.” Xander took a few steps back and cocked his head appraisingly. “Anyway, it looks pretty good from where I’m standing.”

Spike glanced over his shoulder at Xander, whose eye was focused on Spike’s ass. “Bent git. We’re meant to be decorating, not ogling.”

“I’m a multitasker,” Xander replied, stooping and retrieving a blown-glass elephant from a cardboard box. He handed the ornament to Spike, who looked the tree over carefully and then hung the elephant on a branch about midway up. Next Xander handed him a giraffe and a hippo, and after hanging them as well Spike nodded and descended the ladder.

“This one’s finished,” he announced.

“It really does look nice,” Xander said, slinging an arm around Spike’s shoulders. “Who would have ever thought you’d be William the Tree Trimmer?”

“I used to fancy Christmas when I was alive. All the candles and the decorations and the treats…I reckoned it was a bit romantic, I expect.” He shook his head. “I was such a poncy twat.”

Xander kissed the side of Spike’s head. Spike’s unbleached, ungelled curls tickled his nose. “Nah, you’re Big Bad to the core,” he teased. “And anyway, you’re right. The tree’s gorgeous. Nothing like when I was a kid.”

“No Christmas tree for the Harrises?”

“One year my mom bought one at Walmart. It was purple and it was the kind that comes with the lights already on it. And she got a bunch of ornaments, too, blue plastic ones shaped like balls and bells and stuff. I thought it was pretty cool, but I was, like, eight. And then Christmas Eve, Dad and Uncle Dave started throwing punches—I think they were fighting over which is better, Chevy or Ford—and they squashed that tree flat. Uncle Dave got poked in the ass by a wire or a piece of broken plastic or something and Dad had to take him to Urgent Care for stitches. That was the last time we had a tree.”

Spike was looking at him with an expression of mixed pity and amusement. “’T’s amazing you turned out as well as you did, love.”

“Well, yeah, between the dysfunctional family and the fully functional demons it’s amazing I turned out at all.”

Spike chuckled slightly and put his arm around Xander’s middle and squeezed. “We’ve sorted the decorating. Sterling will be pleased.”

“He will. You did a great job.”

“It’ll do. Let’s go pack, yeah?”

Xander groaned and then plodded along with Spike, through the Rose Salon and down the stairway, then into their cozy little basement apartment. It wasn’t that he minded the packing that much—he didn’t own all that much clothing anyway—and he was even kind of looking forward to the wedding. After all, how often did a guy get to attend a lesbian/Jewish/witch/demon ceremony, where a vampire slayer was going to be maid of honor, a former mystical key was the bridesmaid, and a Watcher was giving away one of the brides? No, it was the travel that he was dreading: the long flight from DC to Phoenix, the too-quick layover, and the hope that there were no delays so that they'd arrive at Sea-Tac well before the vampire-scorching dawn. He and Spike had survived a trip to hell and back; hopefully, they’d make it to Seattle in one piece.


~*~*~*~*~


Their cab driver was from Afghanistan and he had a low opinion of winter in Washington, DC. It turned out he didn’t much like the summers, either—too muggy. But he got them to Dulles quickly and safely and Spike gave him a pretty hefty tip.

“Didn’t know you were such a big spender,” Xander said as they made their way into the terminal.

“The bloke works hard and we’ve enough dosh to be a bit generous.”

“You’ve enough dosh. Me, not so much.”

“Nah, you’re my kept boy, aren’t you? What’s mine is yours.”

Xander grinned. “I’ve never had a sugar daddy before.”

“Well, you can work it off in trade,” replied Spike, giving Xander a healthy wallop on the ass, which made the twelve-year-old kid behind them snicker.

The check-in line was a long one—this was a busy time of year to be traveling. Spike amused himself by whispering at Xander about which of the people in line would have made good prey back in his homicidal days, and which he would have left alone. Xander didn’t mind. He was confident that nowadays his boyfriend was firmly on the white-hatted side of the line, and if Spike wanted to reminisce a little about old times, Xander couldn’t blame him. Besides, he sort of suspected that Spike was nervous about flying and was trying to blow off a little steam.

The girl at the check-in counter was perky and wore horrible orange lipstick. She did a double-take over Xander’s eye patch but then dimpled at them both. She nodded at Spike’s fake ID and Xander’s real one and checked their shared suitcase. After that, they had to wait in line again to get through security, while Spike grumbled under his breath about having to take off his Docs. Xander was pretty sure Spike said something about draining the TSA people, and he was very thankful neither of them had to be patted down.

They got to the gate with about a half hour to spare. Xander zoned out in front of the TV screen—it was that annoying airport version of CNN—and Spike paced around a little before settling down beside Xander to play a sword-fighting game on his iPad. Spike’s stomach grumbled every time the electronic samurai guys struck blood, and Xander wished Spike had had a bigger meal before they left home. Then their row was called for boarding and Spike gritted his teeth and followed Xander onto the plane.

While the plane was taxiing and then taking off, Spike gripped Xander’s hand so hard that it hurt, but he relaxed a little once they were in the air and the interior lights were turned off. Most of the passengers settled in with those paper-thin blankets and postage-stamp pillows to get some sleep; Spike peered past Xander and out the window. “The seats were more comfortable on the lawyers’ private jet,” Spike complained. “D’you reckon they have those tiny bottles of booze on this flight?”

“Yeah, they probably do. But you seem a little less tense now.” Xander squeezed Spike’s thigh.

“Maybe. But I still don’t fancy these bloody machines.”

“You’ve been to hell multiple times and that didn’t faze you. What’s the problem with a perfectly good 757?”

“The problem is I don’t believe in airplanes. There’s no way a big hunk of metal like this, stuffed full of chubby Yanks and their overflowing suitcases, can stay up in the air.”

“Sure it can. It’s all about aerodynamics and, uh, lift and stuff.”

“That’s rubbish. It’s mojo and I don’t trust it.”

Xander squeezed Spike’s leg again. There might be a few downsides of dating a Victorian vampire, but they were pretty small compared to the benefits. “I trust it better than I trust driving through, say, South Dakota in December. Flying’s a heck of a lot faster, too.”

Spike made a sour face but nodded. After a few more minutes he stuck his earbuds in and powered up his iPad again. Xander leaned his head against the window and dozed. He had a strange dream about a big pond teeming with fish and woke up to discover Spike squashed against his shoulder, fast asleep.

Not too much later, the captain announced their descent into Phoenix. Spike blinked awake and stretched, then gave Xander a peck on the cheek. “You make a comfortable pillow.”

“Glad to know I’m good for something.”

“You’re good for loads of things,” Spike said with a leer.

Xander rolled his eyes. The flight attendant came by a moment later and made them put their seat backs in the full upright position, which sounded way more fun than it really was, and she waited impatiently for Spike to put his iPad away. “See?” Spike said to Xander. “Mojo. If it were physics keeping this thing aloft a little electric toy like mine wouldn’t have much effect.”

Xander didn’t argue. For all he knew, Spike was right. Maybe the pilot was some sort of aviator demon and, come to think of it, there was something not entirely human in the way the flight attendants had demonstrated how to use the seat belts at the beginning of the flight. Why did they think people needed instructions on operating seat belts, for god’s sake? Plus that whole “although the bag will not inflate, there is oxygen flowing to the mask” thing sounded like a huge crock of shit to him.

His thoughts were interrupted as Spike clenched his hand again and the plane’s wheels bumped onto the tarmac. The lights in the cabin flickered on as the plane taxied to the jetway. Xander glanced at his watch. They were about ten minutes late, but if they moved quickly—and if their next gate was not too far away—they should have time to make their connection.

They deplaned to chaos.

Everywhere they looked were crowds of people: sitting in chairs and on the floor, napping amidst piles of coats and carry-on luggage, yelling angrily into cell phones. Babies were squalling and small children were darting here and there; everybody appeared stressed and unhappy. The people at the food places looked frazzled and exhausted and, as best as Xander could tell, seemed nearly out of things to sell.

“What the bloody hell’s going on?” Spike asked. “Apocalypse?”

“Dunno.” Xander marched over to the bank of overhead displays. He searched for a gate number for their flight to Sea-Tac, but prominently flashing next to the flight number—and most of the other flights—was the word “Delayed.”

“Fuck,” said Xander.

“Pretty much,” answered the guy standing next to him. The guy was in his forties, tall and skinny, and he wore khakis and a somewhat rumpled blue Oxford shirt. “Blizzard in the Midwest. O’Hare and Detroit have been shut down for hours.”

“Don’t see why that’s a problem. No sodding snow in Phoenix, I’d reckon, nor in Seattle.”

The guy gave Xander a slightly pitying look, as if feeling sorry for him being stuck with someone so dense. Xander sighed. “Yeah, Spike, no snow here. But our plane is probably stuck on a runway in Illinois.”

“Just like everyone else’s, buddy,” the guy said and wandered away.

Spike scowled. “Well, that’s bloody stupid. This time of year they ought to have planes reserved for the warmer regions so this sort of shite doesn’t happen.”

“Well, maybe they should, but they don’t.”

“How long until we can leave, then?”

Xander shook his head. “I dunno. But if the plane hasn’t even left O’Hare, there’s no way it’s gonna make it in time for us to get to Seattle before sunrise.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. I already said that.”

Xander pulled out his phone and called Willow. It was the middle of the night and she didn’t pick up, so he left a message telling her what was up. Luckily the wedding wasn’t for another two days, so at least they weren’t likely to miss that. After he hung up, Xander led Spike to a gate where three extremely harried airline employees were attempting to deal with a long line of angry customers. Spike slumped against a nearby wall with his iPad, probably hacking off more samurai parts, while Xander waited patiently. He might be traveling with a vampire, but at least he wasn’t like the poor lady in front of him, who had three kids under eight years old.

When Xander finally made it to the counter, the skinny woman there gave him a look that dared him to complain. “We’re sorry about the inconvenience sir the weather’s a matter out of our control,” she said in a monotone.

He smiled at her. “I know.”

She relaxed slightly when he didn’t bite her head off. “Can I have your boarding pass, please? I’ll try to rebook you as soon as I can.”

He handed over the slips of paper. “Actually, I was hoping you could schedule us for a flight tomorrow night.”

That perked her up considerably. “Really? You don’t mind waiting?”

“My partner’s kind of, um, sunlight sensitive.” He waved vaguely in Spike’s direction. Spike was busy poking murderously at the screen of his tablet.

“He’s pretty cute, though,” the lady said.

Xander grinned. “Yep. Adorable.”

“I’ll tell you what. I can get you on a 10:18 pm flight tomorrow. And since you’re being so patient, I’m gonna bump you two up to first class. How’s that work for you?”

Xander had never flown first class before. “Works like a charm! Thanks!”

She spent several minutes typing furiously away at her computer, while Xander wondered what the hell ticket agents did that took so many keystrokes. Were they all secretly writing novels as they worked? But eventually she looked up again and smiled and handed him some papers from her printer. “Here you go, Mr. Harris. Two first-class seats on the 10:18 tomorrow night.”

He took the papers. “And our luggage?”

“It should get there with you. If not, just contact our agents at Sea-Tac and they’ll track it down.”

“Thanks. And happy holidays.”

She smiled again. “You too. Both of you.”

Spike looked up from his game as Xander approached. “Well?”

“Looks like we have almost 24 hours to kill in Phoenix.” Xander decided to save the upgrade as a surprise.

“Lovely.”

“Hey, if we’d driven we would’ve gotten stuck on the road somewhere maybe, and that would have been really bad. Unless you like spending the day stuffed in the trunk of a car.”

“Could have just stayed home in DC. Our flat’s nice and warm, innit?”

“Oh, come on. You want to see Angel in a yarmulke as badly as I do.”

Spike answered with a slight smirk. “You’ve a point there.” He and Xander walked down the long terminal. “Do you reckon the poof and the Slayer will make a go of it this time?”

Xander snuck a look at him from the corner of his eye. “Jealous?”

“Nah. Give me either of them all wrapped in a red bow and I’d still take you instead.”

“I’ll wrap myself in a red bow if you want.”

“Now, there’s a Christmas pressie I could really appreciate!”

They walked past the metal detectors and took the escalator to baggage claim. Of course their luggage wasn’t there but, as Xander had hoped, there was an information booth, complete with ads and brochures from area hotels. Xander and Spike walked up to the booth.

“Hi,” Xander said to the gray-haired man who sat there. “We need a room for tonight. Any suggestions?”

“Yeah, I suggest you make yourself comfortable here at Sky Harbor. Every hotel for miles around is booked solid.”

Every hotel? ‘Cause we don’t need anything fancy.”

“Even the ones with the hookers. Not only is everyone stuck here at the airport, but we’ve got three big conventions going on this week. We got Southern Baptists, the Masonry Contractors Association, and a big tattoo expo.”

“Hopefully not all in the same place,” Xander said.

“Nope. But we’re all full.”

Xander turned to Spike. “Looks like there’s no room at the inn.”

“And no manger handy either, I’ll wager.” Spike sighed. “C’mon, Mary. Let’s see if we can at least find a bar.”

They found a sports bar that was pretty rowdy—stranded travelers apparently tend to drink a lot—and Spike ordered Jack Daniels, while Xander got a bottle of Heineken, and they squeezed themselves through the crowd and sat down at a tiny, sticky table. A soccer game was playing on the overhead TV screens but nobody was watching it.

Xander was suddenly struck by a thought. “You gonna be okay without any blood for another day?” Angel would have a blood source once Spike was in Seattle, of course.

“Won’t dust.” Spike waggled his eyebrows. “Perhaps later you can let me have a nibble or two to tide me over.”

Xander—and Little Xander—liked that idea a lot. He’d learned in recent months that Spike nibbles were definitely of the good. “Um, sure. Except…where?”

Spike shrugged. “We’ll find someplace.”

“Okay. And we’ll also need to pick you a spot in the terminal that’s far away from windows. Travel’s inconvenient when you’re a vamp, huh?”

“Nowadays everyone’s in such a hurry. Travel never used to bother me much, back when it was all trains and carriages—or feet. Getting across the sea, though, that’s always been a bit more of a challenge.”

“But you managed.”

“More than once. Dru would get it into her head to go to a different continent and then there was no stopping her. Daft old bird,” he added, not without affection.

“How’d you do it?”

Spike downed the last of his whiskey and waved the empty glass around, probably hoping someone would see and bring him more. “We’d find a ship and hide away somewhere. Feed off the passengers. We had to do it sparingly and carefully so nobody much noticed that people were missing. Wasn’t any fun.”

A harried-looking waitress came over and refilled Spike’s glass. Xander was still nursing his beer and didn’t order more.

“Was it less fun than being stuck in an airport?” Xander asked.

“Dunno. Company’s better here.” And Spike gave Xander one of his rare, soft smiles—Xander thought of them as William Smiles—that made him look very young and human. Xander melted and wished more than ever that they’d managed to score a hotel room.

They stayed in the bar a couple hours longer. The crowd thinned as the hours became wee—most people had wandered off to find a place to crash or to drunkenly badger the airline employees. Xander yawned, too. He’d only had a light nap on the plane. The two of them polished off their drinks and left. There really wasn’t anyplace at all to sit in this part of the airport, so they went back through security—more grumbling about removing the boots—and walked back through the terminal.

But there wasn’t much place to crash there, either. All the chairs were taken and people had used their carry-on baggage to stake out chunks of the terminal's real estate as their own. Finally Spike found them a little alcove near a shoe-shine stand and well away from windows. They sat against the wall, leaning against one another; Xander stuck his coat behind their heads as a makeshift pillow, while Spike spread his duster over them like a blanket.

“Not the most comfortable of accommodations,” Xander observed.

“I’ve lived in crypts, pet. Crypts and abandoned factories and old barns. And I’ve slept anyplace the sun wouldn’t find me: mine shafts, the boots of cars, once buried under a pile of rubbish. Your shoulder’s the Ritz in comparison.”

They scooted their butts around, settling in a little better. “This is working, isn’t it?” Xander said after a few minutes.

“What? Airport camping?”

“No, I meant you and me. Us. Our usness is a success, I’d say.”

“As opposed to your use of the Queen’s English, yes.”

Xander poked him slightly in the midriff. “I’m being serious here, Fangface.”

Spike tilted his head to look intently at him. “Did you expect we’d fail, love?”

“I don’t have much of a track record, do I? I mean there was Anya—and we both know how that turned out—and there were a few guys I dated later, but nothing…nothing long term. Nothing real.”

“And we feel real to you?”

“Yeah.”

Spike let out a long sigh. “Good. You know me, Xan. Demon or not, I don’t take love lightly.”

“Love?” Xander’s voice caught a little.

“Love,” Spike replied firmly.

“But why does it work? I mean, you and me—not exactly what someone would have predicted a few years back.”

“You think we’re any less likely than me and the Slayer?”

“Or Harmony,” Xander chuckled.

It was Spike’s turn to poke Xander. “Git. You and I, we’ve things in common. And we…I don’t know. We fit. No use analyzing love. It’s like hunger—you can’t stop it, can’t govern what you hunger for. I hunger for blood, there’s no stopping that. And I love Xander Harris. No stopping that either.”

Xander smiled kind of goofily. “We’re having a relationship talk in Terminal 4.”

“You started it.”

Xander snuggled in a little closer against his vampire. He felt ridiculously content. “I know.” He turned his head to kiss Spike’s cheek. “I love you too.”


~*~*~*~*~


When they woke up, it was mid-morning and the terminal had cleared out considerably. Xander ached from sleeping on the hard floor. He found the nearest bathroom and pissed and washed up a little and scowled at his face in the mirror. His hair was a mess and he needed a shave and he looked thoroughly disreputable. He badly needed a toothbrush, too.

Spike was waiting for him when he got out. They found a Starbucks and Xander was delighted to discover that they’d had time to restock after the previous night’s crowds. He bought a grande latte and an enormous cinnamon roll, and he and Spike sat at one of the wooden tables together. Spike got a slightly lascivious look on his face when Xander licked the icing from his fingers.

Then they went to the little store that sold souvenirs and candy and things. Xander was delighted to find that they had toiletries as well, and he spent a small fortune on a mini toothbrush/toothpaste set and a comb. He bought a t-shirt too—a yellow one with a picture of a phoenix on it. “It’s kinda like you,” he said to Spike as they walked to the cashier.

Spike looked mystified. “How?”

“You’re like a phoenix. You burned and rose from the ashes. Only without the egg, I presume.”

“That’s…quite poetic of you, love.”

“I have my moments.”

They left the shop and then spent a moment just standing there, buffeted slightly by passing travelers, trying to decide where to go. Finally, Xander said, “I want to clean up some more and change.”

Spike nodded and tagged along to the bathroom. He waited patiently while Xander brushed his teeth combed his hair and swapped t-shirts. While Xander tried to decide whether the old tee was worth dragging along or whether he should just toss it, Spike borrowed the comb to put a semblance of order in his curls.

“So what now?” Xander asked, finally stuffing the dirty shirt in the trash. “Too sunny to explore the delights of Terminals 2 and 3, but I guess we could head back to that bar, or—”

“’M feeling peckish.”

Xander froze. “Oh?”

Spike prowled closer in an extremely predatory sort of way. “Hmm,” he purred.

Xander found himself backing up against the white tile wall. “But, um, where…?”

Spike grabbed him and propelled him into the handicap stall, slamming and bolting the metal door behind them.

“But…there are other people here, and—”

Spike stopped him very efficiently by covering Xander’s mouth with his own.

Spike tasted good. Xander didn’t know how he managed it, but Spike always tasted good, even when he’d been drinking pig's blood and chowing down on blooming onions. It must have been a special vampire power and it was so not fair, but at the moment Xander couldn’t find it in himself to complain. Not when Spike’s tongue was tangling sinuously with his own; and Spike’s hands were working their clever way between the back waistband of Xander’s briefs and his skin, cupping and squeezing gently at Xander’s ass; and Spike’s body was pressed tightly up against his, pelvis grinding into pelvis. Soon Xander was squashed against the stall partition, feeling a little lightheaded and a lot horny.

Xander stopped minding that there were other people in the bathroom. Hell, he wouldn’t have cared much at the moment if there were other people in the stall with him, because gods! Spike felt so good! The vampire could drive him from zero to crazy in about two seconds flat.

“I want you,” Spike breathed huskily into his ear.

“Kinda got that.”

Spike chuckled in a completely evil sort of way and deftly unbuttoned jeans, first Xander’s and then his own. He shoved their pants down past their knees which was good, very good, because that meant Spike skin was within easy reach, and besides, Spike looked so goddamn delicious standing there in his black t-shirt and duster and his pretty cock all standing at attention.

“Fuck,” Xander said.

“Getting there, love.”

Spike moved back in, which allowed them to settle hands on each other’s asses, and he dove in for another kiss, this one more heated than the last. They rocked their hips, their cocks rubbing and sliding together, both of them moist with precome.

“You’re going to kill me,” Xander panted when Spike moved his soft lips away.

“But what a way to go, yeah?” And Spike vamped out.

Xander used to be terrified at bumpy brows and pointy fangs, especially when they were viewed close up. But over the last several months his reaction to them had changed completely, so that now, with purely Pavlovian response, he gasped and bucked his hips and arched his neck.

Spike growled softly. He wrapped his palm around both their cocks, squeezing gently. And then he bit.

“Oh, fuck!” Xander couldn’t help but yell.

Spike couldn’t answer—he was busily sucking at the tiny wounds he’d made—but he moved his hand quickly and firmly, providing exactly enough friction for them both. Xander’s hands tightened on the silky skin and taut muscles of Spike’s butt. Spike made a purely animal sound deep in his throat, a sound that brought back vague, fuzzy memories of grassy savannahs under blazing suns. “Shit…shit…Christ!” Xander shouted and then he fell over the cliff, into the land where any coherent speech was impossible, and all he managed was something garbled and guttural, and his knees buckled and he would have fallen if he hadn’t been pinned between Spike and the metal partition.

“Guh,” Xander said when Spike licked delicately at his neck and pulled slightly away.

Spike grinned like a maniac and ran his sharp, pink tongue over his own lips. “Lovely.”

Xander looked down at his sticky groin. “We just had sex in an airport bathroom.”

“Sex and a snack.”

“You’ve corrupted me completely.”

Spike was unrepentant. “Demon, love.”

They cleaned themselves up a little with the scratchy airport toilet paper, pulled their clothing on, and buttoned up. When they came out of the stall, two men in suits and one in jeans and a Stetson were standing there, gaping at them. Xander blushed furiously, but Spike just smirked and went to the sink to wash his hands.

Back out in the terminal, they found a pair of adjoining chairs. Spike pulled his iPad out of his duster again—Xander wondered if he’d had a special pocket sewn in for the thing—while Xander called Willow.

“Xander! Where are you?”

“Still in Phoenix. Didn’t you get my message?”

“Yeah, I did. But I expected you closer by now.”

“Flammable significant other, remember? We’ll be in early tomorrow morning. Plenty of time to put on suits and ties and look stupid for the wedding pictures.”

He could hear voices in the background—Sevael and Buffy, maybe. They didn’t sound happy.

“Yeah, okay,” Willow answered. “But Buffy’s kind of in a tizzy because her dress is a teensy bit too tight and Dawn’s scaring her boyfriend by getting a little too enthusiastically into the whole wedding thing and the only caterer in Seattle who could hook us up with human blood just canceled and Sev’s busy chewing him out—um, not literally—and Giles is into the whiskey and Angel’s just Mr. Gloomy but then that’s nothing new. I need you, Xan!”

And to think, if it hadn’t snowed in Chicago Xander would have been in the middle of all that instead of hearing declarations of love and then having mind-blowing sex in a public place. “We’ll be there tomorrow, Will,” he said gently. “We’ll be there tomorrow and everything will be fine and you’ll have a beautiful wedding. Giles will probably even cry. Then you and Sev will be off to Cancun and Spike and I will temporarily annoy the grouchiness out of Deadboy and all will be well.”

He could hear her sniff. “I hope so. ‘Cause right now it’s feeling kinda apocalypsy.”

“It’ll be fine.” Xander glanced at Spike, who was busy with his samurais again. “Even when the world ends, it’s reborn, better than ever.”

Spike looked at him and gave him the William Smile, and Xander wondered how soon they might revisit the bathroom.

“Okay,” Willow said in a slightly wavery but determined voice. “See you tomorrow. Fly safely.”

“Bye, Will.”

Xander tucked the phone back in his pocket and bonked his shoulder into Spike’s. “You think you can keep yourself occupied here a while?”

“Hungry again already?”

“Nope. Thought I might get a little shopping in. It’s almost Christmas, you know.”

The William Smile was still firmly in place. “Sure, pet. But I’ve already been given the best pressie ever.” He conked his head gently against Xander’s.

Xander grinned at him. “And I’m not even made of plastic.”

“Still… wouldn’t mind a bit of unwrapping….”

“Let’s wait until we get to Seattle for that. I think our hotel has those beds where you get to control the mattress firmness.”

“Oh, I’ll control the firmness, all right.”

“Lech. Dirty old vamp.”

“And you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

No, Xander thought, he wouldn’t. He stood and patted Spike’s shoulder and wandered away, quietly humming “Joy to the World.” He’d spied glass ornaments shaped liked cactuses and coyotes in one of the terminal’s shops, and he was thinking that next year they might look nice on a small tree tucked into the corner of their basement.

Just six months ago his life had held nothing for him. And then he’d gone to hell. And now here he was, happy as a clam to be stuck in Phoenix, Christmas shopping for a vampire. Both of them risen from the ashes indeed.



The End