Expectations

 

 

It really was a beautiful tree.  Taller than most, with a richness of color that Spike suspected might be magically enforced.  Not a single pine needle dropped from this behemoth, or had the temerity to turn even a shade browner.  The presents, all empty boxes, were wrapped with paper decorated with Santa’s and trees and laughing fake snowmen, all colors and styles to match the decorations nestled among the branches.  It wasn’t tacky, not a bit of it, and Spike marveled at the skill involved to create something like this—especially since the creator thought looking like a candy-cane was the height of fashion.

It was hard not to be introspective, standing there on a Sunday morning, too early for even the most industrious of employees to be about, coping a few hours of overtime.  All the lights dimmed down so it still seemed like night, something Spike still marveled at no longer fearing.  It was quiet, too, the quiet of a winter snowfall, frozen droplets of water blanketing over everything to create a hush that felt warm and fuzzy, even if you were outside freezing fingers and toes off.  Spike loved a good snowfall, the way white stretched out over everything so you couldn’t distinguish one part of the world from another.

“No snow in L.A.”

“Yeah.”  He wasn’t surprised to hear Angel come up beside him, or for him to know what Spike was thinking about.  “Miss it, sometimes.”

“Me, too.  But not the digging out, or attempting to go anywhere without slipping and falling on your ass.”

Spike rolled his eyes.  “Trying to create a mood, here, you pillock.  Don’t ruin it for me.”  But there was no real heat behind the words.  Habit and petty annoyance, nothing more.  “Ever think about going back?”

“What, to London?”  The question honestly shocked Angel, something Spike didn’t know he could still do.  Thought they’d gotten to inured to each other that nothing they’d say would cause real, genuine surprise.  Or maybe Spike was just being a tad on the bitter side.  “It’s not my home, Spike.”

“Not mine, neither.  Doesn’t mean that sometimes. . .”

Angel sighed, soft breath of a sound that was so incredibly Angel that Spike could’ve laughed.  Didn’t, though.  Just tried not to analyze why that sound was so familiar and what that wasn’t making him feel.  “Strange for vampires to get homesick.”

This time Spike did snort.  “Been watching too much Oprah, there.  Not homesick.  Just. . .too many Americans.”

“That sounds pretty much like homesick to me, Spike,” Angel said caustically, but then he was shifting and his voice softening, so Spike didn’t get uppity the way he probably should’ve.  He wasn’t gonna take that tone from Angel, especially with no lackeys around to play nice with.  “Also, note the use of the plural.  Vampires.”

Ah.  So Angel did get it.  Shouldn’t be surprised, really, since underneath all of the angst and bullshit they’d created for themselves, Spike knew they weren’t that dissimilar.  The soul helped, of course, but where Angel needed it for this kind of thing, Spike. . . Spike just accepted it.  Shiny new excuse for what he’d always known.

“What about Galway?” he asked after a while.  “Hop one of your fancy jets, take a midnight stroll down memory lane an’ all that.”

“Maybe stop, join in that civil war a little, yeah?  See if I can help make the English shove off for good?”

The accent always came back at the weirdest times.  It was never really gone, if you listened the right way, but Spike was so used to Angel busily denying everything he was or had ever been that it was a bit of shock when the rough-smooth voice he still heard in his dreams reappeared.  Meant that Angel was really lost in the memory, too, and Spike hadn’t thought he’d be given that courtesy.  Not since he appeared screaming and panting at Angel’s feet, anyway.  Not since Angel made it clear what he thought of Spike’s soul.

“Nah.  Why would I go, Spike?  See all the places I’ve polluted?  Pick out the cobblestone street where the beautiful highborn lady stopped me, with me too drunk to want more than a tumble in the nearest barn?  It’s just blood.”

“Don’t you get tired of being gloomy all the damned time?  Forget about all the people we’ve killed—”

“I can’t, Spike.  I never will be able to.  And if you—”

“—and look at what it was like before.”  Annoyed at the interruption and Angel’s thickheadedness, Spike finally turned and glared at him.  “It’s not just about the flaming bodies, alright?  But it’s sixty sodding degrees and sunny, not a hint of ice or cold, and what the hell is Christmas without snow on the bloody ground?”

Spike loved Christmas.  Alive, dead, it’d never mattered to him—at least until Sunnydale—because he’d always been able to spend it with someone he loved.  There were always presents and carols and good times to be had, and this year he didn’t even have a bunch of world-saving brats to admit they actually thought he was kinda cute, and give him little pressies.  Instead he was here.  With sodding Angel, who was so much like Scrooge that he could’ve been—and possibly was—the model Dicken’s used for the character.

And Angel, blast the man, knew all that.  He’d bothered Spike something fierce when the love of Christmas first came out, and it was only Dru’s enjoyment that made him stop.  He knew it now, too, giving Spike that damned appraising look that was judge, jury, and bloody executioner all at once, the look Spike hated more than any other in the small repertoire Angel drew from.  The one that said ‘worthless’ and ‘child’ and ‘inconvenience’.

Except the look wasn’t quite as disdainful as usual, and as Spike watched it melted into something he’d never seen before and couldn’t even hope to decode.  With a twitch that could’ve been a grin, Angel turned back to stare at Lorne’s masterpiece of a tree.  “Used to love carolers,” he said quietly.  “Americans never do that right.  And none of ’em know Good King Wenceslas.”

“Carol of the Bells,” Spike retorted.  “And we’re not doing that here.”

“I used to be able to do a good—”

“Over my dusty ashes, Angel.  No singing.”

This time the twitch was definitely a smile, and the hostility and yes, all right, desperation from before began to fade.  Angel was never good at apologies, so Spike had learned to take them wherever he could find them.  A grin was as good as the words, far as he was concerned, probably better.

“Right.  No singing.”

“Good.”

“You know,” Angel said after a moment.  “We’ve got some weather-workers down in Fred’s department.  They’re not very reliable, but I could probably drop in a word that snow might be appreciated. . .make the boss feel welcome, that kind of thing.”

“You’d do that, huh?”

“Might.  If there’s time.”

Which was Angel’s ham-handed way of saying ‘yes’, Spike knew.  So unless the weather-workers hit a snag, there’d be snow this year, for Christmas.  In L.A.  All because he’d asked for it.  Huh.  That was. . . decent of Angel.  Almost generous, one might say, as if Angel perhaps cared for him.  Or at least wanted to do something nice for him.

“Gonna get me a porche, too?” he asked, because he wouldn’t be Spike if he didn’t try and take more than he was being given.

Angel cuffed him.  “No.”

“Jag, then.”

“No.”

“Right, fine, a Beemer.  Leather interior.”

Groaning, Angel stomped away, shouting, “Go to bed, Spike!” over his shoulder.

Spike thought about saying something snarky about Angel not being his Da, but didn’t.  Just stared at the tree, again, watching as light turned the needles so rich they almost glowed.  And thinking that maybe this Christmas wouldn’t suck after all.

Home