Saturday, December 13, 2003



Spike stared at the piece of paper, head tilted quizzically. The paper was simple white with black writing, clearly legible even for a vamp who didn't admit to being a bit near-sighted when not vamped out. It was obvious, really, with the words written in clear, Queen's English. Except in the way it completely wasn't.

"No, no, I am not going to listen to a—ah, there's my Blondie Bear!" Lorne broke off haranguing some starlet or has-been to beam at Spike. The phone went into his pocket, but his hand didn't come back out. He was probably afraid that he wouldn't feel the vibrations without touching it, but there were a few of Lorne's own staffers betting that he slept with the thing, rather than lose contact with it. "You look like the rugs been done pulled out from under you, Bl—Spike, all right, all right, no more nicknames. Anything I can do to help?"

Spike didn't lose the expression, just pushed the paper out. "Yeah. Explain this."

"Why, it's your Secret Santa assignment. I know I explained it to you."

"Yeah, you explained. You conveniently forgot to mention the bit about me havin' to buy for Ang—"

"Hey, there, speed racer!" Lorne interrupted hastily. "Don't forget that ‘secret' part."

Spike's expression would've melted lead. "It's Saturday. Anybody's who's here is down making sure the tree—uh, makin' sure it's all pretty, just the way you'd set it up." So far, they'd managed to keep Lorne from finding out what had happened to his tree. Spike didn't think they'd be able to keep the secret for much longer, but then, he hadn't thought they'd be able to keep it for a full twenty-four hours. "Anyway, no one's around, least of all the bog-trotter with a big head. You rigged this, you green bastard."

Lorne drew himself up his full height—which was just a smidge taller than Spike was. "I did no such thing. Into the hat they went, and I pulled out names one by one. . . unless they were buying gifts for each other, then I went with the runner up."

Losing patience rapidly, Spike waved the piece of paper in the air. "I've got to buy something for Angel! I don't even like the fat bastard, let alone want to spend my money on something for him to throw away, soon as he figures out it's from me!"

"Except, it's a Secret Santa, so he won't know it's from you."

Spike snorted. "Right. Angel ever tell you how good our sense of smell is? He'll know it's from me. Plus, I'm not buying him," he peered at the paper again, "bloody hell, I don't know."

"You can get him anything you want, sugar-plum. Just don't spend more than twenty dollars or so, and you'll be fine."

The sheet pressed up to his nose, Spike read over it one more time. Not that the name, or the brief guidelines Lorne had typed up had changed. "You're out of your horned head. I'm not spending my money on a Manilow CD!"

"Actually, it's his money, isn't it?" Lorne pointed out. "And besides, the holidays are about spreading good cheer and renewing old family ties! Shouldn't you maybe try and bury that big ol' hatchet? For me? Look, Spike, it's just one gift. Then you can go back to hating him."

The momentary drop of good spirits made Spike stop worrying about what he was going to get for Angel to really look at Lorne. They'd done a good job of not letting him know about the tree-desecration, but Lorne wasn't stupid. He knew there was something they were hiding from him, and he'd find it out soon enough. Plus, he'd been running himself ragged since Thanksgiving; it was starting to take a toll.

"You aren't gonna go all green and muscley, are you? Getting enough sleep and all that?"

‘Duh' said Lorne's expression. His eyes were still tired, though.

"Yeah, yeah, all right. I'll buy him something. Not promising he'll like it," Spike cautioned. "But I'll try. Now, what the hell are you doing here on a Saturday, anyway? Can't find a nice girl to rub your horns?"

Lorne laughed, the hand-permanently-attached-to-his-cell-phone already up and traveling back to his ear. Spike hadn't even heard the vibration. "No time. Now you just run along and find something sweet for your grandsire, okay?"

Waving, Spike watched Lorne, dressed in pure silver today, stride down the hall talking animatedly. "Hey, wait!" he called as Lorne disappeared entirely. "If you're organizing this, who's buying something for you?"

But the Pylean was already gone.

Sunday, December 14, 2003