The man at the bar downed another shot, placing the glass beside the line of others on the counter. "Hit me."
"Geez, buddy," the bartender replied, "It's Christmas Eve. I want to close." He surveyed the empty room. "Ain't you got somewheres else to go?"
The man started to giggle, a laugh that started deep down in his throat then choked in a sob. "One more. One more and I promise I'll leave."
The bartender narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, that's what you said half an hour ago."
"I mean it this time."
"Okay. Then I'm closing." He poured the whiskey into the glass.
"Haven't you heard that a vampire can't drink himself to death? It's physically impossible."
The man spun in his seat, only to find a familiar face. "Oh, god. I have had to much to drink. I'm seeing ponces."
The bartender snatched back the still full shot glass. "That's it. You're outta here."
The snow crunched under Spike's boots. The man walking beside him left no footprints. "I'm not a figment of your imagination."
"The hell you're not. Either I've had one too many shots of Jack, or I'm going mad again. Since I generally hold my liquor, I'm thinking the latter. Nothing to do now but to find a nice cozy basement and suck on rats."
"Delightful image. And that wasn't your plan for tonight, was it? You were planning to head for the nearest rail yard and lie on the tracks, until either the sun came up or the Eastbound Special decapitated you."
Spike stopped and looked at his visitor. "How did you know that?"
"Ah. So you do consider the possibility that I'm more than a figment of your imagination."
"I'm doing nothing of the sort. I'm mad as a hatter. Nothing else for it. Not like I'd be haunted by the ‘head boy' himself, would I. I figure you've gone on to your great reward, hero like yourself. Human dying to save the world? Free pass. Not like we souled vampires, doomed for eternity and all." He thrust his hands further into the pockets of his duster. "Sod off, figment."
"Perhaps I had unfinished business. I should think you'd be open to the idea of ghosts, having been one yourself."
"Non-corporeal entity, thank you. Not really a ghost, or so I've been told. Not sure vampires can be ghosts. I'll let you know in the morning."
Wes ran to keep up with Spike's determined stride. "Suicide on Christmas morning. How dramatic. Have you ever stopped to think that you might still have a purpose in this world? That perhaps God, fate or the powers haven't finished with you yet? That your life isn't so bad?"
Spike stopped abruptly, and Wes passed through him. "Hey, watch it, mate." He pulled out a cigarette. "My life, or unlife, to use the colloquial, ‘Bites the big one.' I've had enough." He lit the end and drew the smoke into his lungs, letting it out again with a sigh. "Time I was shoving off."
Spike coughed. "Pardon me?"
"You have some many advantages, and yet you choose to throw them all away. I'm dead. Really dead. I'm never going to smoke another cigarette, well, not that I was ever keen on that anyway. I'm never going to smell the sweet pine scent of an evergreen. I'm never going to touch the hand of the woman I love, in this life or the next, because I'm dead and she's gone forever. So, yes, you're a git."
"Is this the part," Spike asked, "Where you show me how bad the world would have been if I'd never been born, ‘cause I don't buy it, Clarence."
"No, this is the part where I try to convince you not to throw yourself under a train. Or haven't you been listening?"
"Look." Spike threw the cigarette into the snow. "I'm alone here in a city I don't particularly like. After the battle, which we won by the thinnest skin of our teeth, by the way, after losing you and Charlie, Illyria buggered off for parts unknown, and Angel hopped it for Italy, where he's probably giving the woman I love her Christmas present as we speak. And I'm not talking about a blender."
"Angel didn't go to Rome."
"What?" Spike furrowed his brow. That possibility had never occurred to him.
"Angel went to Bermuda to find Nina and her family. As far as he was concerned, Buffy had moved on, and so had he.
"Yes. Well." He resented the little flicker of hope trying to catch a spark in his soul. "Buffy had moved on, hadn't she? She's with," he couldn't constrain himself from spitting, "The Immortal."
"Buffy thinks you're dead. How could she truly move on without knowing the truth?"
"Andrew told her. Must have. Little prick couldn't keep a secret if his life depended on it."
Wes shrugged. "And if he did? If she doesn't know?"
"Does she?" He stared intently at the apparition.
"Up to you to find out. I can't do everything, you know. Though I do happen to know of a freighter leaving for Rome tonight. If you hurry, you can just make it. I should think the sun shines just as bright in Italy, if needs be. Brighter."
"I believe I said to hurry."
Spike's face slowly broke into a wide grin. "Maybe I am a git after all." He turned to run towards the harbour. "Thanks mate!" he called behind him.
"Yes, well," Wes answered. "Merry Christmas."
"Took you long enough."
"He needed some convincing." Wes turned to see Gunn's smiling face. "How did yours go?"
"Lorne won't be putting a bullet in his head tonight. Can't vouch for tomorrow. He's still pretty broke up."
"Care for some company? Perhaps the two of us..."
"Yeah, bro. I'd appreciate it." The two men started to fade into the night air.
"Merry Christmas, Gunn."
"Merry Christmas, Wes."