No Time Like the Present
Setting: Mid-BtVS season 5, after Into the Woods but before Crush.
Pairings: Mention of all Spike's canon pairings, but principally Spike/Harmony.
Beta: dwyld read it through for me.
Disclaimer: Not for profit, no money, don't sue etc.
Author's note: This is my umpteenth attempt to write a Christmas fic loosely based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. All previous attempts have gone horribly wrong. I hope this one will just about do.
No Time Like the Present
"Bloody hell! Not now!"
Spike groaned as the old microwave emitted a sort of despairing, metallic squeal and ground to a halt, his mug of blood barely lukewarm inside it.
He glared at the offending machine. He should have nicked a new one long ago. Too late now, though. This late on Christmas Eve all the shops would be shut.
Slamming the microwave door, he thumped the blasted thing a few times on its dented side with his clenched fist.
"I'm warning you, you bastard," he snarled. "Work, or it's back to the dump with you." And he vamped out and showed it his fangs, just in case it hadn't got the message.
At once, a stream of sparks from his jerry-rigged wiring sprayed across the crypt. He yelped and leapt back, but then grinned in triumph as, with a wheeze and a cough, the microwave juddered into sullen life again.
"Knew you liked it rough," Spike sneered. "Oops"
Sparks had caught in his bedding, which was rapidly deliquescing into a pile of molten, synthetic goo. By the time he'd trodden the fire out, the crypt smelt of slightly singed vampire, and grey, choking smoke was adding to the clouds of dust thrown up by his stamping feet.
Spike grimaced, as he brushed dust and ash off his shoulders. As if the place weren't enough of a dump already, now his bedclothes were covered in scorch marks.
Mind you, they went with the big heap of bones in one corner (the former occupant of Spike's sarcophagus) and the cobwebs draped across the ceiling, like some leftover Halloween decoration that had decided to stick around for Christmas.
Bloody depressing really. But then he'd had a lot on his mind recently and let the place go a bit.
With a sigh, Spike took his steaming mug out of the microwave and trudged over to his old, broken down couch. He flopped into it disconsolately, sending up another cloud of dust, and took a long swallow of warm blood flavoured with nice, fresh burba root. The taste lifted his mood a little and he grinned to himself, remembering how Giles had been too busy paying off those terrible carol singers to notice him walking out of the Magic Box with bulging pockets.
Good scam, that - the bad carol singing. If he hadn't got rid of the chip and ripped Giles's throat open by next Christmas, he'd have to try it himself.
"We'll see how he likes a rousing chorus of Merry Christmas I Don't Want To Fight Tonight scarin' away all his paying customers."
Smirking at the thought of imaginary Giles's outraged face, Spike picked up the TV remote and pressed the 'on' button.
Five minutes later, he was glaring at the screen with something like loathing.
Sodding Christmas! More channels than he could count, and nothing to watch on any of them. Charlie Brown didn't appeal, or the Grinch. All that mawkish moralising made Spike feel quite queasy.
In the end, he settled on A Muppet Christmas Carol as the least worst option.
All right, so it was still on the mawkish side, and messing around with Dickens was tantamount to sacrilege -not to mention Spike had never really got the Muppets, except for Animal - but it was the closest he was going to get to a traditional Christmas telly-wise around here. And what was Christmas, if not all about tradition?
Anyway, Spike told himself, old Charlie Dickens would probably have been tickled pink by it, Muppets and all, considering he'd pretty much invented Christmas in the first place.
He settled back to watch, and soon, despite himself, began to feel quite nostalgic.
Dru had always loved a proper Dickensian Christmas. No new-fangled Christmas trees for her (all those splinters were far too dangerous), but opening presents by a roaring fire (behind a nice, solid fireguard), yes definitely. Then plenty of good food and gaiety and jolly games in the parlour after tea.
Not forgetting the religious aspect, of course. Attending Midnight Mass had been very important to Dru. At least, lurking outside Midnight Mass when the congregation came out and nabbing a tasty morsel or two for Christmas dinner had been important to her, which in Spike's opinion came to the same thing.
Dru had liked servant girls best as Christmas presents (Spike liked them all year round), or maybe a dewy-eyed orphan. Spike had always made a point of giving them a thorough clean and wrapping them up properly before he gave them to her, because presentation was very important when giving gifts. Even vampires knew that.
Of course, every Christmas, Spike - sometimes with Darla's and Angelus's help, (if they hadn't swanned off to winter on the continent) had had to persuade Dru that siring one of the snotty nosed little bleeders wasn't a good idea. But even so, the pleasure on her face when she caught sight of her gift was worth the inconvenience.
The weather had always been seasonal back then too, or so it seemed. There'd be snow - even in London - and the days were so overcast and dull, they'd been able to go skating on the Serpentine in broad daylight. Spike would never forget the sound of steel slicing through ice, nor the sight of Dru, black curls cascading out of her bonnet and bouncing upon her shoulders, a hectic flush on her cheekbones, laughing as he whirled her around and knocked all the other skaters flying.
"More, Spike! More! More! More!"
Spike jerked awake with a start. On the telly, Kermit and Miss Piggy were singing some nauseating song about the blessings of family and Michael Caine was busy repenting already. He'd missed quite a bit of the movie while contemplating Christmas past. Not that this was a bad thing.
He sighed. He was over Dru once and for all, yes, but for him, she was family. He missed her. He even missed Darla and Angelus a bit. What was Christmas without a flaming row with your boring old relatives, after all?
But thinking about being over Dru led - naturally enough - to thinking about the reason why he was over her.
Spike drank more of his blood, scowling. Sodding Slayer, ruining everything as usual. It was all her fault his crypt was in a mess. And now here she was intruding into his nostalgia, like she intruded into everything, with her pinched face and her bottle blonde hair (yeah, he got the irony), and her tight little....
God, she was so beautiful!
What would it be like spending Christmas with her?
Spike frowned. It was hard to imagine, but probably she wasn't a skating fan. Also, there'd be no festive blood-letting. She'd take a very dim view of that. No roaring fires either, this being California, and no victims begging for mercy (unless she'd gone out slaying and they were vampires, of course).
He licked his lips, imagining the scene. Buffy moving through the cemetery like a golden tigress on the hunt. Himself, the victim, helpless on the ground, while those taut thighs pinched his sides. The smooth muscle rippled in her arm as she raised the stake to skewer him.
He opened his eyes wide. "Slayer," he breathed. And suddenly, the stake was gone. Instead, she was ripping at his shirt - tearing it from his body, running her hard little hands over his naked chest. His jeans soon followed, and his imagination only faltered momentarily at the thought of being naked in public because of what she did next.
God, her mouth! He flung his head back and groaned aloud.
Of course, Christmas Yet To Come being traditionally a bit of a downer, this was the moment when harsh reality (such as the fact that the Slayer hated his guts) reasserted itself and instead of...doing what she'd led him to think she was going to do, she sprang to her feet with a sneer.
"Like I said, Spike. You're beneath me."
Then she flounced off, leaving him exposed and ridiculous, while the other vamps in the cemetery, who'd been cowering behind tombstones, emerged from hiding to point at him and laugh.
It didn't get much better afterwards either, when he followed her back to her house and peered through the windows to where she was sitting with her mum and Dawn and the Scoobies, eating Christmas dinner, all family together, and he just felt excluded, alone and unloved.
That's because you are excluded, alone and unloved, you twazzock, the sensible part of his brain told him.
Except for Harmony, of course.
Which brought him back from a gloomy Christmas Future to stare in irritation at Christmas Present.
"Oh, Spike-ey!" Harmony dangled a piece of plastic mistletoe above his head and pouted her pretty pink lips for a kiss. On the TV, Scrooge was turning over a new leaf and wishing everyone a merry Christmas, and judging by the empty glass on the table, it looked like Harmony had taken the injunction to heart and polished off all Spike's blood.
And after it had almost killed him trying to get it warmed up too.
"Bloody hell, Harm!" Spike batted her hand away, sending the fake mistletoe flying. "Tryin' to watch telly here. Go and pester someone else, why don't you?"
Harmony's pout turned into a little moue of distress. "But it's Christmas, Spikey, don't be mean."
"Oh, sod off." Raising his foot, Spike kicked her right off the end of the couch. "Won't mean anything to you, you silly, ignorant bint, but right now, Christmas Yet To Come, for all its doom and gloom, looks a lot more attractive than Christmas bloody Present."
When she didn't respond except to turn her face away, he shouted, for good measure, "Bah, humbug."
Still, she didn't look at him but stayed crouched on the floor, face averted, and after a moment, Spike felt a pang of regret. There were definite advantages to their current arrangement, after all. For one thing, if she stormed out, who was he going to have sex with while he fantasised about the Slayer?
He gritted his teeth. "Look, Harm, I'm sorry I hit you, but you should know better than to sneak up on a bloke like that. I..."
But then he screamed an unmanly scream, as she whirled on him and her body exploded out of its crouch. Not Harmony at all, but the most terrifying monster Spike had ever seen. It had Angelus's face, framed in Harmony's long, blonde curls, and - most disturbing of all -it was wearing Harmony's clothes.
The tiny part of Spike's brain that wasn't frozen in terror, noted that pink really wasn't Angelus's colour.
"I'm not Harmony," whatever-it-was snarled, in Angelus's voice. "I'm your old partner in crime - come to warn you what'll happen to you if you don't change your ways. Woo-ooh!"
And it waved its arms in a pantomime of a ghost haunting, while from somewhere in the depths of the crypt came the sound of clanking chains.
"Bloody hell!" Spike scrambled backwards, but too late as the thing leapt over the couch arm and pinned him in place beneath it. Unlike Marley's ghost in the story, its body was all too solid and resisted every attempt of Spike's to kick it off again.
"What's the matter, Spikey?" it snarled in his face, saliva dripping from its fangs. "Vampires not good enough for you, now you're the Slayer's lap-dog?"
"Gerroff me, gerroff me!" Spike jerked and flailed, but he couldn't dislodge the thing.
"You're an idiot," the Angelus monster growled. "Mooning after her, like a mangy cur. She's way too good for you, Willy boy. Even said so, didn't she, yet here you are, still pining after something you can never have, and ignoring what's right in front of you."
"Sod off! What do you know?" Spike twisted his head, desperate to escape the trail of drool depending from Angelus's lower lip and now inches from his nose.
Oh, I know plenty," Angelus's voice hissed in his ear. "Take what's on offer, and think yourself lucky, because it won't get any better. The Slayer'll never love you back. You're nothing. You're no one."
The voice took on a extra-gloating note, which seemed to echo inside Spike's skull. "Most of all, though, you're not me!"
"No, no, no!" Spike sobbed, only to startle awake and find himself sprawled half on the floor, with Harmony - the real Harmony - God, he hoped so - gazing at him over the back of the couch with a disgusted expression on her face.
"Harm?" he peered at her suspiciously. "Is that really you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course it's me, silly. You dozed off. In fact, you were kind of drooling. Which isn't cute, even for you."
"Was I?" Spike hauled himself back onto the couch. He felt quite shaky. Eyeing the half-drunk glass of blood, he wondered if the burba root had been 'off.' Or maybe he hadn't been as sneaky at the Magic Shop as he'd thought and Giles had done something to it, the bastard?
"Don't get hung up about it." Harmony came around the couch and sat down beside him. "What's a little drool between...er, boyfriend and girlfriend, right?" She thrust a badly wrapped package into his hands. "Merry Christmas, Blondie Bear."
Spike gave her a cautious glance, just in case she turned into Angelus again, wrinkled his nose at the wrapping paper with its pattern of jolly Santa Clauses - which Spike knew for a fact were nothing like the real thing - then tore the package open. A slew of CDs fell out of it, from the topmost of which Johnny Rotten's face stared back at him.
He grinned. "The Sex Pistols' Greatest Hits. Thanks, Harm.."
Harmony dimpled prettily. "I thought I should get you that, even though the Sex Pistols totally suck, seeing as I'm the one who burnt your old ones. CDs don't burn very well. Did you know that?"
"No, I didn't." Not that Spike cared. Now he was over his nightmare, the feel of her thigh rubbing against his meant he had other things on his mind than past crimes against music.
He reached for her, but she pushed him back. "Hold your horses, mister."
Spike frowned. It wasn't like Harmony to play hard to get. Opening his eyes wide, he said, in a coaxing tone, "Come on, Harm. I only wanted to show my gratitude."
"That's as may be," she said, primly. "But I'm not done yet. See, you've been so distracted lately with watching the Slayer so you can kill her better when you get the chip out that you've been forgetting to clean up around here, so I decided to do it just this once."
She motioned with her head towards the ceiling. "You were so fast asleep you didn't wake up, even when I vacuumed."
Spike craned his head in the direction she indicated. "Bloody hell!"
The cobwebs were gone, and in their place, bright tinsel garlands in an array of garish colours festooned the crypt's ceiling. The pile of old bones in the corner had been replaced by a dinky little artificial Christmas tree, adorned with the loudest, pinkest baubles Spike had ever seen. At its foot, was a large equally badly wrapped box.
To his utter astonishment, Spike found himself saying "Thanks," to her yet again. Which made it twice since he'd first met her.
"Don't mention it," Harmony said, airily, though she looked pleased. "Well, actually, no, you totally should mention it because it was hard work and I broke a nail. But it was worth it, I think. Isn't the tree pretty?"
"It's...something, that's for sure."
Spike reached for her again, but again she held him back.
"What's more, I bought you another gift. It's a secret until tomorrow of course, but I was just sick of the way your old microwave doesn't heat things properly. Besides, the guy in the store was so grateful to me for not killing him that he let me have it dirt cheap." She studied her nails. "What did you get for me?"
For a fleeting moment, Spike felt a pang of....
No, it couldn't be guilt. Not about Harmony. That was just stupid. Wasn't it?
He'd nick something for her later, he thought. Maybe they still had that naff china unicorn on sale in the Magic Box. In the meantime....
Leaning forward, he licked her delectable ear and when she didn't push him away this time, let his hand sidle slowly up her leg and under her very short skirt. "How about.... this?" She squeaked very gratifyingly.
Afterwards, Harmony unpeeled herself from their sticky heap on the couch and padded across the crypt to fetch them both some blood. The old microwave coughed and wheezed again, but this time it did the business.
Maybe it knew the game was up, Spike thought, as he surreptitiously threw away the sprig of plastic holly Harmony had stuck in his mug. He smirked. Serve it bloody well right.
Harmony settled beside him on the couch again and rested her head on his shoulder.
"This is nice, isn't it, Spikey?" she cooed. "Best Christmas ever. Don't you agree?"
It had its good points, Spike had to admit, and if there were better places to be - he thought about Dru and the skating - there were definitely worse ones too. Like on his knees in a dirty alley with the Slayer telling him he was beneath her (and not in the fun way).
Maybe his very own Jacob Marley had had a point? Make the most of what you have, because it won't get any better.
Spike frowned. Where the bloody hell had that defeatist attitude come from?
So he was no one and nothing, was he, and the Slayer would never love him back? Sod that! He'd show Angelus, the bastard.
"Well?" Harmony was gazing at him with blue, adoring eyes. "Don't you?"
Spike shrugged inwardly. He'd show Angelus all right, but in the meantime, it was Christmas. God - or infernal deity of your choice, in this case - bless us every one, and all that bollocks.
"It'll do, Harm," he said. For now.