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Wolf, Reindeer & Heart by Dutchbuffy2305

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Summary: Written for TeaattheFord Christmas Challenge, December 2003

Categories: Post-Series Characters: None
Genres: Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Merry Christmas Spike Series
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes
Word count: 5,145 Read: 37
Published: November 17, 2006 Updated: November 17, 2006

Chapter 1 by Dutchbuffy2305

Spike catches a whiff of a familiar scent. It conjures up white-hatted forests and tall fair maidens full of blood, with side orders of raw fish. He once spent a winter above the pole circle; the amounts of alcohol and depressed Swedish blood he consumed were life-changing, and he will never forget that one time with Angel and the troll...He holds the phone against his chest and walks out of Angel's office to see what's causing it. A green, conic object tightly wadded up in fluorescent orange netting is being thrust jerkily into the great hall of Wolfram and Hart, like a troll penetrating the back entrance of his loved one without lube. Spike identifies the smell as spruce and goes back to the automatic dial up of the phone number in Europe. Voice mail again. He debates leaving a message, but he knows he won't, just like the other four hundred times he's called.

Just when he's putting down the phone it starts to ring. 'Wesley', it reads. He considers picking it up and pretending to be Angel but waives the opportunity. Wesley knows to the second at what time Angel gets in and likely is on to him already. He puts it down and wanders off. A vague suspicion begins to blossom in his mind. Perhaps, when he calls Europe, the phone he's ringing displays 'Angel', and that's the reason it isn't picked up. That is a good thought, a really heartening thought. He makes a mental note to requisition a phone of his own from Fred and walks out of Angel's office in search of excitement.

Harmony's standing on an unstable ladder, directing the low-browed green haired creatures how to get the gigantic pine tree into the lobby. She's yelling at the trolls, but they seem impervious to her English. Spike ambles closer and peeks up her neat pin-striped office skirt. Still not wearing panties, he notices.

"Love the view, Harm," he says, but his heart isn't in it. Harmony doesn't even bother to react. Damn, he is losing it. His approach needs to be less direct.

"Era djävla puckon, damen här vill väldigt gärna knulla!" he admonishes the trolls, but either his Swedish has gone rusty, or the trolls are not interested in vampiresses. They stare stubbornly down at their gnarly feet. Oh well.

Lorne strides on by, resplendent in festive beaded tartan. Spike doubts that Lorne has any right to wear the Royal Stewart, but it does set off his complexion vividly and picks up the red in his eyes.

"Listen, pumpkin-pie," Lorne is saying into his left phone, "We booked the real Santa Claus, and we're not going to be fobbed off with some second-rate wannabe with a cotton wool beard and beery breath - Steve Martin? Are you insane? Who do you think you're talking to? No, no, no, no! Not John Goodman, not even with Dan Ackroyd as Rudolph. Now if you offered Bing Crosby I'd give it a thought, but -"

Lorne switches phones. "Too tall? What do you mean too tall? I ordered it specially, a Norwegian pine tree, selected and cut by real Scandinavian trolls. If the lobby is too low, you'll just have to sacrifice part of the ceiling, buddy. A deal's a deal. Oh, well, there's always magic, sweet pea, you know you can do it, and if not, you know to which part of hell ex-employees go, don't you?"

It's weird that Angel's so into the whole Christmas tree and party thing. He and Darla were centuries old before the Prince Consort made the German way of celebrating Christmas popular in England. Spike remembers even his father muttering about newfangled Hunnish fashions, but he and Mum always had a great time decorating the tree and singing carols, German or not.

Spike loves being in the office before Angel like this. It gives him time for transatlantic phone calls, chatting up the secretaries and thinking about spiking Angel's blood with ipecac. He doesn't, because he is too souled and mature. If he was any more mature he'd be dead. Dead-er, by boredom this time. Yapping at the heels of the love of his life was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but never boring.

Charlie Gunn comes by, deep in a phone call already, but they exchange high fives and grins. Well, that's probably going to be the main excitement of his day. He has already turned away when Charlie calls him.

"Yo, Spike, I gotta break our date. Too busy today. We'll go apartment hunting after Christmas, okay?"

He can't fight the call of duty. Charlie's a good mate, but they work him so hard he has very little time to just hang anymore. Probably inhaled not only knowledge but an overdose of work ethic as well. He crosses the lobby and takes up battle station behind the pillar, the best location to have the elevator in sight while remaining unseen himself. Lorne speed-walks by again, cajoling someone unknown to him to not be a stranger and come to their party. When he is past Spike, his back can be seen to be sporting the Dress Lindsay; a check Spike remembers having had a waistcoat in. Shudder.

A hush signals Angel's arrival. Spike shakes his head. The man comes down every morning at exactly the same time, to the second. That must be saying something pretty revealing about his character, right? The moment Angel enters the lobby there is always a little wave of employees who come in at that same time especially for the privilege of being able to greet the CEO with "Morning, Mr. Angel." It enables Spike to slip into the elevator unseen and head to the penthouse.

He opens the door with his counterfeit key and goes over the silent carpet to the second bedroom. It contains an empty closet, and Spike has made a nest there with lots of comforters and pillows. He takes a quick swig from his bottle of JD and settles down for the day. A tiny bit of light comes in through the keyhole of the closet, but he doesn't fear it. The whole apartment is glazed with necro-tempered glass.

He twists and turns for a few minutes. Whenever he stops moving unwelcome thoughts intrude on his privacy. That he is utterly pathetic, for instance. He's been corporeal for a month now, and he is still living in Angel's apartment, like an overgrown Borrower. What is stopping him from going out and not coming back? Nothing is the answer, nothing but his own wankerness and inability to make a decision. He might as well still be a haunt, for all the joy he's getting out of being corporeal again.

He must have fallen asleep after all, for when he wakes up it's dark. He shoots upright and bangs his head. Bugger, he's in a closet in Angel's apartment for the twenty second night in a row, and for all he knows the annoying git is already sleeping the sleep of the virtuous and well-fed ten feet away from here. He extends every sense he has, but detects no vampiric presence. He crawls out and thinks of using Angel's shower, but decides against it. Better not tempt the fates; he's done nothing fun enough to make him smell anyway. He's going to go out and get drunk, but first he's going to drop by Fred's office, see if he can cadge a cell phone.

Everyone is still around, to his annoyance. Something's up. No one bothers to tell him about it. Charlie's deep in contracts, Lorne's wailing over the phone about his Christmas Party, and Angel and Wesley are trying to think of a way to find someone missing, is all he catches from passing by. None of his concern, then, is it?

Fred is staring fixedly into a microscope, some kind of handwritten note. That guy Knox is standing a bit too close to her for Spike's liking. Well, can't blame the girl for hankering after a nice young fella like that. Seems nice anyway.

"Cell phone?" she says with a faraway look. "Sure, just get one from Harmony, okay?"

Harmony, huh? Harm's still behind her desk, tirelessly routing phone calls and tapping rapidly away at her keyboard. Very impressive. It must have been a long day for her, but she's looking as fresh as this morning, eighteen forever. Who knew vampire stamina would come in handy for a personal assistant?

She ignores him for as long as she can, but Spike is determined not to lose patience and waits politely. When he gets bored he walks behind her desk to see what she's typing at so busily. Her document reads, "s;av "oew qrjsa P,vwju yu64mi6m oi ;l;lfmcfd lkgewoutw0[396t03=9q85b nkfm kdmfo eajt0[qu 6[0325q8"5

He turns on the balls of his feet as fast as he can and goes to stand in front of her again. He can see Harmony checking out if he's seen through her deception, but he smiles at her innocuously. She's so relieved that she stops being busy and asks if she can help him.

"Harmony, my love, I need a cell. I thought you'd be the person to go to, seeing you're the spider in the web of this office, the woman who gets things done!"

Harmony preens and flips her hair behind her neck with her hand. It's straight and loose today. Spike feels a little ashamed that she falls for the transparent flattery. It must be so awful to be this dumb, much better to be twenty nine and smart for all eternity. Although eternity is sounding pretty damn long and lonely right now. And who is he kidding, he isn't twenty nine, or a hundred and twenty nine either.

Harmony promises to get him the cell tomorrow. Satisfied, he saunters out to the exit. He has a smoke outside with Gerry the night guard, whose kid is doing better, and then takes off for one of his new haunts, Dirty Harry's downtown.

It's early yet, so he starts off drinking on his own, but as the night matures, demons start trickling in. The vamps are rosy with Christmas shoppers' blood; the other demons get served snacks which remind Spike uncomfortably of children's fingers. It doesn't help that that's what they're called on the menu as well. Gone are the days that he could enjoy the tales of bloodshed and mayhem with relish. His enjoyment's selective now, for instance the fight that starts shortly after midnight between a Fyarl and a Mohra demon. That is still fun, and he forgets for a few minutes where he'd rather be.

A wrinkly, dewlapped demon slides on the stool next to him and for a second - a heartbeat if he had one - he thinks it's Clem and almost shouts for joy, but then he realizes it's not, just the same breed.

"Hi," he says anyway. "I'm Spike."

"August," the creature offers.

"Hey, you wouldn't happen to know a fellow named Clem? Looks just like you, lived in Sunnydale. Someone told me he got out in time."

"Clem? Sounds like my cousin Clement, yeah. He moved to Cleveland, he likes Hellmouths."

"Oh."

Maybe he can look up Clem someday, if he's not going to, you know, other places in this world. He would have liked to show her Paris.

August buys him a beer. "To Cousin Clement! So, how did you two guys meet?"

"Playing poker," Spike says reminiscently. "Clem loved to play poker. Really bad player, though, the big cheat."

August chuckles. "Sounds like our Clem, all right. Say, if you like poker, I've got just the game for you, buddy. Starts at three on the dot, Harry's Christmas Poker Marathon. We start out with a lot of games, an hour a game, the one who's ahead on points gets to the next round, and so on. Usually takes a couple of days, and the rumor is there's a really big prize this year." He winks and nudges Spike in the side. "Can't say more, but you know what I mean, know what I mean?"

Spike perks up a little. Poker isn't inherently evil and will while away some of the time that weighs on him heavily. .He joins a table with August. A lizard demon, a Glargh' Gul G'ashmanik and a species he doesn't know - looks like Whorf in drag - make up the rest.

August is a very talkative player. He keeps up a line of chat about his family and their past exploits that makes Spike almost forget about playing. When he finally forces his head away from the inane chatter he realizes August is way ahead on points. Okay, not very much like Clem after all. He concentrates fiercely. Now that he's playing he wants to win, he reckons. No point in doing things halfway.

It's strange how little his life seems to have changed. Apart from last year, when Christmas was something he didn't even know was happening, being chained in a cave and tortured on a twice-daily basis, his Christmases have looked pretty much the same for more than a century. Booze, making merry, kill a few people or demons, fuck Dru, etcetera. How come his having gained a soul and dying again haven't made more impact on his lifestyle? Look at Angel, for example. His personality has been brutally hacked into different bits, each hating the other and fighting for dominance, and his life reflects this split.

Deep in thought he manages to catch a twitch of August's wattle and pulls out, just in time. He manages to win the game with a very tiny margin. He stands a round for his table and is walked by the referee to the next game, which takes place in a dank cellar somewhere in subterranean LA, at least a quarter of a mile's walk from Dirty Harry's. He smells brine and hears sloshing. Sound is oddly amplified in the room and for some reason he's reminded of a Star Trek movie. The fourth player is invisible; he must be the one in the tank. He handles his cards with a robotic arm that fascinates Spike for at least half a minute.

This game is played at a much higher level than before, and Spike needs his wits about him at all times. He wins again, although the invisible demon in the tank is right on his heels. When he slaps down his winning hand, a forlorn hooting sounds from the tank and he hears wild splashing and sloshing. He taps the tank in a friendly manner.

"You want to get free of these humans and demons, mate. Associating with them shortens the life span, or that's what they say happened to your cousin Willy, didn't they? Best of luck."

The referees push him into a car and drive him to an abandoned warehouse.

"How many rounds is this marathon, mate?" Spike asks.

"Sseven roundss," the snake demon hisses.

Oops. That might take a bit longer than planned. He hopes he will still be able to attend the Christmas party. He does a bit of math in his head and comes to a staggering amount of participants in the first round. Every demon and his mate from all over LA County has to be joining in. Must be some prize.

The new round is played fast and furious and Spike has a hard time even staying close to the others. The player next to him, a buxom vampiress in red leather, bends over to him.

"Support me, and I'll give you the blowjob of the century," she whispers.

Spike isn't particularly tempted; her concept of personal hygiene has never left the nineteenth century, and he can see bits of her last victim adorning her front teeth. Her idea is a pretty good one, though. He bends closer to her with his sexiest smirk and rumbles in her ear.

"Baby, if you support me you'll get the multiple orgasm of the millennium." His hand is squeezing her ample thigh at its most sensitive spot and she caves within seconds. See? Nothing wrong with his powers of persuasion. Every woman he's ever met has fallen for his charms, except the ones that counted, of course.

With Mitzi's help he wins round three as well. While he's giving Mitzi her reward, trying not to breathe through his nose, he's thinking ahead to the next rounds. He gives the woman beneath his hips his very best, because he owes her for the brilliant strategy. The referees wait impatiently until he's done.

The next rounds are going to be played in a football stadium, according to the refs. When he gets out of the car, Spike recognizes the Dodgers' Stadium. He thinks he ought to be past surprise at this sort of thing by now, but he isn't. American demons have managed to weasel closer to the normal world than they have ever dared to in the Old World. At the far end he can see the VIP boxes, and a tiny bluish figure holding court. He identifies Sebassis. That makes for a change of plan, because as a known associate of Wolfram & Hart's it would be a bad idea to win this contest, and be led before the Duke of Los Angeles.

He screeches to a halt and tears a nasty stripe in the pretty turf. He'd normally consider it a deadly sin, but they won't be playing the footie on it anyway. The referees throng around him, surprised at first, than threatening.

""I'm so very grateful to you fellows," Spike begins and checks back how far it is to the exit."The way you've been refereeing is just masterful. "S just that I seem to be unavoidably detained on urgent business..."

The big Fyarl on the right clamps hands like hams on his upper arm. "No welshing," it growls. "Only way out is lose."

"Right. Thanks for the tip, mate."

His table is at the far end from Sebassis, thankfully. He just has to lose this game and get out of here. He doesn't even bother to assess his fellow players and waits for the game to begin.

"Eh, tasty one," the smelly demon on his right burbles in his ear. He looks like the offspring Mick Jigger and the Elephant man might have had.

"Bugger off," Spike growls. "I'm dead and not at all tasty."

"There's fun things to do besides eating," the demon counters, coyly swinging his penis over his other shoulder and licking his chops.

Spike feels another tentacle sniffing his groin and sighs. He's being put upon from all sides, and after twenty years with Angelus he's had quite enough of the love that dares not speak its name. He gives the yearning giant the cold shoulder and starts bluffing like a maniac to lose as fast as he can. However, Lady Luck has chosen to be contrary, as he might have known. The others' cards are unbelievably bad, and as fast as he can throw each brilliant card away he gets even better ones in return and wins hand after hand. The playing hour races past and before he knows it he's being led to the sixteen red-decked tables in the middle. The superfluous tables are being neatly rounded up by servile scurrying lizard demons. Maybe all LA businesses are really owned by demons. He can feel it from the soles of his resurrected boots to the crown of his panicky curling hair: he's gonna win the next one too.

And so it happens. Round six, down to four tables by now. He catches Sebassis eye, and sees the Duke's teeth bare in an anticipatory grin. Why does nothing ever change? Here he is, a hero complete with honestly-gotten-by soul, and he still walks straight into gaping maws of failure like this. For the first time in a month he's happy she's not here to see it. He'd never live it down.

He checks out the guy next to him. A fierce red-skinned creature, with a nasty bird like beak and covered in oozing warts. It's quite small, and needs two cushions to reach the table. The other two contestants are of the same species, giant greeny-black fungus balls with bad breath. He turns to the beaky demon and offers to help him win. He checks out Sebassis again, but he's deep in one of his attendants - literally. Good.

The game is going very strangely. He does everything he can to help the red demon, but the other two seem bent on letting him win. Spike has no idea why and snarls at them with the grin that made Europe quake, but the green ones just bare their tusks and nudge his knee encouragingly. He battles his fate furiously but wins.

"No way the Akhn-atons were going to have that eater of their eggs win, you know," a ref confides in him. "I'm glad I bet on you."

Could his misery be any worse? Excepting last year, that is? Of course there is betting going on. So whether he wins or loses, someone is bound to be pissed at him. Attracting this much bad luck must be some kind of paranormal talent. It's probably his role in life for the future; attract bad luck away from the real hero, the chunky one in the pin-striped suits.

Last round. The last table is situated close by the VIP boxes, so that those who paid the most have the best view, as is only reasonable. Sebassis nods at him graciously. He cranes his neck to se if he knows the other dignitaries. He recognizes Hinanna, the snaky Countess of Las Vegas and the Yellow Prince of Texas on Sebassis' left side. He turns back to the table and what he sees makes him swallow the big lump of ice that starts sliding down from his useless brain to his throat at that moment. Of course. The three demons at his table are from the tribes of the three Grand Personages up there, and guess who's going to be the winner? The only way not to start outright war is to let Spike win, he sees that now. Whatever gullible idiot had ended up here would undergo the same fate.

Spike is completely sober by now, as he hasn't had a drink since the first game. He's so tired and hungry he can hardly see straight. Not that it matters, the game is fixed, but he'd like to give a good showing.

"Pint of blood to be had, mate?" he asks the referee who bet on him.

"In a glass or straight from the human?"

"Hospital issue, or otter, please."

The being curls his lip. There goes his minute of popularity.

To his left a whole section of the stadium seems to be filled with vampires. They lift banners with 'Vampires go!' written in blood red letters. They wave them in slow motion and bob up and down and it makes him a little sick. If they knew he had a soul they'd be staking him en masse.

The playing starts. The demons at the table aren't paying any attention to him, only to each other. He wins all rounds and gets all dream cards, all the time. He doesn't bother to try and discard them; the pack will be enchanted, probably triple enchanted by the court sorcerers of all three nobles. The hour trickles by, a grain of sand at a time, slowly squeezing through the narrow waist of the glass. At last it's over.

He's led before the three powerful demon leaders. He doesn't bow, hating the amusement he sees in the Duke's eyes.

"William the Bloody, winner of the 2003 Poker Marathon," the Duke intones and winks at him. "I'm so glad Wolfram & Hart is with us as always," he adds in an undertone to Spike alone. "Convey my Solstice greetings to your CEO, won't you?"

Spike is given an ornate key with fake drops of blood in bright red enamel. He holds it up to the massed demons as his referees instruct him. There is perfunctory cheering; the stadium is already emptying. The demon hordes are leaving, disappointed that there will be no interstate war this year.

The refs push him towards another rental car, cover him with blankets and roar off. He's deposited at the entrance of a cave; a sunset flashes by as he hurries inside. There are a lot of referees around, and over there Duke Sebassis descends regally from a pale blue limo, surrounded by body guards. It isn't over yet, he guesses. He sees a door at the far end of the cave. Ah, that's what the key will be for. He trudges through the moist sand to the cave and puts the key into the lock. An unexpected push from behind makes him stumble and he falls forward, into the salty darkness. The door clicks shut behind him.

"Careful, me lad," a deep voice says. "Can't be eating me if your pretty teeth are broken, can you now?"

A pale suspicion blossoms in Spike's mind. That voice....He finds his lighter and flicks it. On a sea-damaged crate a portly, balding old man sits, dressed in an old blanket he's loosely tied around his ample middle. A lot of curly white chest hair shows. His bare feet, of heroic size, are stuck out in front of him. A cup of tea rests forlornly on the sand.

When he sees Spike a happy smile comes onto his face. Spike thinks so, anyway, because of the way his copious white whiskers elongate horizontally.

"Spike! Lovely lad! Come into me arms and give us a hug! I couldn't have hoped for a more congenial rescuer."

Spike is crushed in a warm and very solid bear hug. The fat old man smells of pine trees and snow, unusual combination here in So Cal.

"Have we met?" Spike asks, confused.

The man waves a nonchalant hand. "We have, but don't give it a thought."

"About the rescue," Spike begins. "Dunno if you saw how many demons are waiting outside the door..."

"Together we will stand!" booms the old man confidently. "And let's not be waiting around to start with the rescue, either, because I'm terribly late for my appointments already. Got presents to bring, got laughter to laugh, people to make happy."

A fat quarter drops hard into Spike's mushy brain.

"Hey! Santa? So you're the prize I'm supposed to eat?"

"That's right, my son. Demons so love to deprive humanity of their Merry Christmas or Happy Solstice or what have you."

"Well, I'm not gonna eat you! I've got a soul now."

He doesn't mention being a veal kind of guy, because that would be rude.

"Good lad," Santa says approvingly. "Well done. You figured a soul would persuade your true love to love you back?"

Spike gapes. What? Does everyone know about him and the Slayer?

Santa claps him on the back. "We met before, but you won't remember that. How's the lovely lady?"

Santa knows how to get straight to the weakest spot, Spike thinks bitterly. "Fine, I hope. In Europe."

"And what are you doing here then, my sweet? Ladies are fickle creatures and need reminding who their true love is, don't they?"

Spike grits his teeth. He does not need free love advice from a man whose only companion is a reindeer with a permanent head cold.

"Where's Rudolph, hey?"" he asks truculently. "Couldn't he kick those demons back to hell for you?"

"Rudy went to get help," Santa says simply. "So he didn't send you? I told him to go get a hero."

More coins tunnel through Spike's gray matter. So that's what Angel and his cronies were going on about, the ransom note under Fred's microscope, Lorne's phone calls. Too bad he's feeling so very unheroic after the non-stop poker. He scratches his head and tries to think.

"Does this cave have any other exits?"

"It doesn't," Santa says.

His lighter fizzles and dies. Faint illumination from outside shines through cracks in the wooden door.

"Let's go and storm the door then, shall we?"

"Good thinking," Santa says invisibly and grabs him in another one of these suffocating woolly hugs. Spike is suddenly happy to have died relatively young, before he could develop that much chest and back hair. The Slayer would have made him pluck each and every one.

"One, two, three, go!"

He storms the door, which gives with disappointing ease. There isn't a demon in sight, just Fred, who is standing there with welding equipment in her hand, looking very surprised.

"Spike!"

"Fred?"

"Spike!" Angel says.

Wesley chimes in as well. "Spike?"

"What the hell are you doing here?" Angel growls.

Spike is feeling sort of disappointed himself. Like Angel he was looking forward to kicking some demon ass. However, a lifetime of dealing with Angelus and Darla makes a fellow resourceful.

"I rescued Santa," he says modestly. "Thought I'd save you the trouble, I did. Wanted you to have some rest after your stressful year."

"Huh." Angel looks at him sharply, but accepts his excuse.

Sometimes Spike thinks there really is a fellow called Angel, because sure as hell old Angelus would have called him on the little white lie harshly.

They ride back to Wolfram & Hart in the comfy necro-tempered Company limo. Spike and Angel are silent, but Santa has a nice line of background patter with Fred going on so they don't need to hide the companionable brooding.

"Oh! Hey!" Fred squeaks suddenly and fishes around in her giant fringed purse until she finds whatever it is she just remembered. She hands Spike a sleek silver bullet of a thing. A cell phone; Harm really did come through. It reminds him of nothing so much as an early model vibrator, and he wonders briefly about alternative uses of the buzzing option. He sniffs its pleasant plastic newness and holds it in his hand to admire it a bit more.

It rings. Spike almost drops it in surprise. No one can have his number yet. Caller ID withheld, it says. Probably someone wanting to sell him life-insurance.

"Yeah?" he says impatiently to the little silver thing.

"Spike?" a tremulous voice from the other side of the world says.

Santa winks at him.

 


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