This was my contribution for noel_of_spike. Enjoy!
Title: Old Habits Die
Word Count: 2400
Disclaimer: I don't own them otherwise there would be a lot more of this kinda thing.
Author's Note: Set post-series for both Buffy and Angel with no knowledge of the comics whatsoever. This is an indeterminate amount of time after each show. Enjoy!<
Old Habits Die
The signs and storefronts were cheerful and bright, just what you would expect from a small town at Christmas time. Tacky, glowing Santas smiling from every window, pimping everything from cell phones to stupid puffy jackets. Spike sneered as he strolled through the town, peaceful and still as it was. Christmas Eve and all the good little boys and girlies were tucked away in their beds, just like they were supposed to be.
The town certainly appeared to be what all it claimed. Welcome to Sunnyville, the sign had declared. The happy little Ville that replaced the Dale. Spike couldn't believe that someone had thought it would be a good idea to build a town next to what was being called the largest sinkhole on the West Coast.
Of course, the pull of the former Hellmouth still called forth its fair share of demons and beasties even though the mouth to Hell had been capped, never to be reopened here again. Still, they came. And the fact that there was a town filled with people now didn't hurt much either.
But no one was out tonight; not demon nor man, that, at least was working in Spike's favor. Now all he had to do was find the person he came here for.
He searched the town proper and came up empty. He had an idea of where his prey could be hiding but that would be stupid, maybe beyond stupid. In a panic, Spike started to run.
He could see the campsite from nearly a mile out. It was hard to miss with its modest fire and the cheery holiday tunes playing from a tiny, tinny radio. As he approached, he realized how close the campsite actually was to the gaping hole of what used to be Sunnydale. He slowed to a trot, then finally a walk before settling into the cocky stroll that would best announce his arrival.
“Hey, Whelp,” he greeted as he approached silently. “What the bloody hell do you think...”
He swore loudly as he bounced off an invisible barrier mid-rant, crashing indignantly to the ground. He glared at the young man laughing hysterically at him.
“Oh man, Spike,” Xander gasped out between barks of laughter. “That was awesome. Was that my Christmas present because, trust me, it was so worth the trip if it was.”
“Shut it,” Spike grumbled as he slowly picked myself up, trying to brush the dirt off his clothes. Leaning against the unseen barrier, he pulled out a cigarette and lit it in one smooth motion as he waited for Xander to calm down. Once he had stopped laughing enough to hear him, Spike asked, “What's up with the mojo? Never knew you to be big with the magic. Thought that was Red's deal?”
“It is,” Xander replied as he stared from his spot by the fire. “She insisted on this little trick when I told her I was coming out here. Which begs the question, why are you out here?”
“Invite me in and I'll tell you my tale, pet.”
Xander stared at him for a few moments before asking, “How do I know it's really you and not some shape-shifty demon type or something?”
“You have wet dreams about Star Trek characters.”
“So? There's nothing wrong with that.”
“Male Star Trek characters.”
Xander reached up and wrapped his hand around the small amulet hanging around his neck before whispering, “Scaramouch,” and the barrier quickly melted away, causing Spike to tumble to the floor again.
Jumping up to his feet once more, Spike spun around to glare at the man snickering at him. “Scaramouch? Will you do the fandango?”
They looked at each other for a moment before breaking into the full song, complete with head-banging and air-guitar by Spike and drums by Xander. Once they were finished, they laughed like old friends sharing a secret joke. Suddenly, Spike flopped down on the end of the sleeping bag laid out on the ground, barely giving Xander enough time to pull his legs up and out of the way.
“Hey,” he complained as Spike started talking right over him.
“So, what, Pet? The witch have to scare up lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody so you could work up a spell?”
“No,” Xander complained, pulling his legs beneath him. “She showed me how to do the spell and the keyword is in this funky ancient demony tongue that I couldn't hope to pronounce without an insane amount of studying which wasn't ever my thing even in the subjects I liked but I could get out Scaramouch and it seemed to work so...”
“Breath, Pet,” Spike interrupted. “Just a simple question.”
“Sounded like a simple accusation to me.”
They stared at each other for several long moments before Spike dropped his eyes to his lap. “Sorry. Didn't mean it like that.”
“What did you mean it like?”
Spike looked up and was immediately caught by the single dark eye watching him intently. “Just playing, Whelp. Like we used to. Old habits die hard, yeah?”
“Some old habits just need to die.”
They sat and stared for several moments before a smirk slowly spread over Xander's face.
“Berk,” Spike grumbled.
“Yeah, well,” Xander replied, “I've heard there's a saying about old habits.”
They laughed, at themselves and each other, while Spike finished smoking before he flicked the butt into the fire. “So, Pet,” he whispered, leaning back to look over the campsite. “What are you doing out here in the middle of the night? You do know it's Christmas Eve, yeah?”
“Yeah, Spike,” Xander answered, “I know. It's one of those old habits things. I always spent the night before Christmas outside in my sleeping bag to be away from my family and enjoy a moment of peace all to myself. The last few years it just felt, I don't know, wrong to be at Will's party or eating an insane amount of cookies with Buff, you know?”
“So you came all the way out here to the middle of bloody nowhere to sit on the edge of the cavern that used to be the Hellmouth for a bit of peace and quiet? That's a stretch, Ducks, even for you.”
“It's just...” Xander started. He took a deep breath before glancing out over the massive cavern they'd created. “So many people. We left behind so many people there. Joyce, Jesse, Larry, Anya; we left them all behind. They're gone and there's no way to remember them. It's like they are just - gone. At least this way I can come out here and remember where they used to be.”
“The Slayer and the Bit had a marker erected for their mum,” Spike pointed out.
“It's not the same,” Xander whispered barely loud enough for Spike to hear. “Her body is down there. Down there with everyone else's. We did that.”
Spike let the young man wallow in his misery for a moment, staring out over the empty hole that was once home, their home. Now it was nothing but an empty shell, a hollow spot in the world filled with the dead and their fading memories. Suddenly, the vampire darted forward to smack Xander on the back of his head – hard.
“Ow!” he complained loudly, rubbing the stinging spot on the back of his skull. “What the hell was that for?”
Spike snorted, enjoying this moment. “You once told me, and I quote, 'If I ever start to sound like Broody McPoutypants, please smack me – hard.' End quote.”
“I'm pretty sure I didn't say 'hard', Spike,” Xander grumbled softly.
Spike stood then, chuckling lightly, before pulling off his duster and laying the coat over the sleeping bag then toeing off his boots as well. He kicked Xander lightly and demanded, “Budge over, will ya'? It's down right chilly out here.”
“Spike, you are not getting in this sleeping bag with me,” Xander protested, even as Spike slipped inside. “There's not enough room.”
“There's plenty of room, Pet,” Spike whispered, a leer spreading across his face. “Looks like you lost some weight on your trek across the continent, eh? Tan and fit is a good look on you.”
“Did...did you just complement me, Spike?” Xander asked, his voice pitching higher in disbelief.
Spike raised his hand as if to strike again. “Don't make me...”
“No,” Xander interrupted him. “No need, Spike. Consider my head well and truly smacked.”
They settled down then, both men cuddling down into the warmth of the down-padded sleeping bag, staring as they faced one another. They just looked, gazed at each other, for several long moments before Spike whispered, “Got ya' something.”
“What?” Xander asked, shocked and surprised.
“For Christmas, you know, the holiday we're supposed to be celebrating? A present.” Spike reached into his jeans pocket, pulling out the small, unwrapped gift.
“You got me..?” Xander looked down at the cool round object in his hand. “...a rock.” He fingered the amulet around his neck before chuckling lightly. “What is up with people giving me rocks for Christmas? You'd think I was back in Kindergarten or something. Like twice wasn't enough.”
Spike genuinely smiled as the young man rambled, waiting for him to finish. “It's not just a rock, Whelp. It's a wishing stone. I won it for you. It can give you your heart's desire. I figured you would...”
Slowly Spike raised his hand, reverently running his fingertips over the smooth fabric of the eyepatch hiding the evidence of one of his greatest failures. Eventually, his cool fingers were caught by strong, warm ones. Spike held on tightly as Xander squeezed back, holding him, grounding himself and Spike at the same time.
“Spike,” Xander whispered, disbelief coloring the rich baritone. “You didn't.”
Warm fingers reached out to pull down the collar of the worn, frayed black t-shirt to reveal still healing burn marks interlaced with vicious scars.
“Don't...” The protest died away when Spike saw the look on Xander's face. He was angry and disappointed and maybe even a bit in awe, if Spike let himself believe that.
“You didn't have to do that, Spike. You didn't have to go through that again, not for me.”
“Maybe I didn't go through that for you. Maybe I did it for me.”
Xander stared for a moment, staring, searching for something in Spike's eyes. Slowly, one side of his mouth quirked up in a half smile before he squeezed his hand tight around the stone cradled in his palm.
“This will bring my eye back?”
Spike allowed himself a tiny smile before he answered. “If that's what you wish for.”
He expected it immediately, expected the young man to smile and blurt out the desire to regain him eye, his sight, the part of himself that Spike had lost him by being too slow, for hesitating. Instead, Xander sighed and silently placed the stone in his bag laying close to the fire.
“You're not going to..?”
“Later,” Xander interrupted.
“But your eye, Pet?”
“Maybe that's not my heart's desire, Spike,” Xander whispered. “I don't know but I don't want to just make some crazy wish and have it backfire on me. Too close to the Hellmouth for that.”
“Hellmouth is closed. Nothing to worry about.”
“I'll believe it when I see it, Spike. Just so long as it's not on my left side.”
“I've got your ticket now,” Spike drawled with a smirk. “You don't want to have to give up the jokes.”
They both laughed for a moment before Xander whispered, “I don't have anything for you.”
“Didn't ask for anything, Xan. Just needed to do this, yeah?”
“You'll think of something. You lot are real resourceful like that.”
The feral smile that crossed Xander's lips surprised him. Suddenly the young man was leaning in, moving closer slowly until he was crowding into Spike's personal space. Warm lips pressed against his own and the vampire surprised himself with the tiny moan that escaped. Before he could recover and respond, Xander was pulling away.
“You asked before, you know, on multiple occasions and in lurid, sometimes disgusting fashion, something along these lines,” Xander started rambling, “but I never would have done that before. But now, I think, things are different. Not that I don't still hate you and I sure as hell don't trust you but maybe we could try to not be so hate-y and be more, you know...”
Spike did know so he darted forward to shut the boy up the only way he could think of without Twinkies being in the mix. This time, Xander moaned, the vibration making Spike purr with delight.
“I think this is a fair prezzie, don't you, Pet?”
“Well, at least you don't have to worry about exchanging it for something else like Buffy does with everything I get her. It would probably just be easier to give her a receipt than a gift.”
Spike chuckled as he leaned in for another kiss, surprised when Xander pulled away.
“Don't be like that, Xan,” he pled, trying not to whine. “I went through a lot of trials for your gift, yeah? Was a lot of work.” He pulled out all the stops and stuck out his lower lip, gave the puppy dog eyes, tried everything he'd ever seen the Bit use to great success with Xander before.
“Like that's going to work,” Xander teased but he was already leaning forward to take the pouting lip between his teeth to nip at it before soothing the bite with a gentle lick of his tongue. They leaned in, pressed against each other, sharing their warmth and breath as the night grew darker and colder around them. It wasn't perfect but it was what they had, what they needed.
They spent the night like that, just kissing and touching, neither demanding more or asking for less. There was no mystical snow or demon attack or world ending apocalypse but it was a first for both of them. The first Christmas Xander didn't feel ashamed or lonely, wondering what he was missing. The first holiday that Spike felt warm and needed, like he wasn't second best.
They had started something new; a tradition Spike hoped to never have to break.
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