Made by Tickyboxes
Stretched out on the couch with a glass of tea spiked with Scotch, I sluggishly eye Rupert on a small ladder decorating the top of our average sized Christmas tree. He’d asked for my help, but I venomously declined. As if I need any more humiliations to add to the list. Bad enough my only way to a shot of alcohol is through tea. Angelus will have a chuckle.
Speaking of the old ninny, apparently he’s being a good little puppy for The First Evil. Always knew he has the willpower of a limp noodle. Only takes a winging big girl’s blouse to fall for an incorporeal ghost. Can’t even land a punch for bollocks’ sake.
“Do hand me the angel, please.”
Distracted by the ongoing mental rant - “What?”
“For the top of the tree.”
Grimacing down at the little doll with wings on the table. “Really? The bloody angel?”
“Did you… did you want it differently this year?” There is so much guilt and uncertainty in that question. He even removes his glasses to reveal the anguish in his eyes, and maybe to be blinded to whatever he assumes there is in mine. Which in reality is nothing but pure apathy, but it should be something else obviously. I’ve yet to muster an interest in whatever melodrama that has happened between William and his daddy.
“I don’t mind really…” Rupert starts hastily, “you’re the one who keeps saying we should never change Christmas traditions. Your mother always had a fondness for the angel.”
My mother. Clearly I’ve got a mother in this universe. She’s never been brought up before now; either she’s a corpse or ditched old Rupes for a bloke with a better income.
“So what’s it going to be?”
I hand him the angel and finish my Scotch in one swallow. I wipe my damped lips with a scowl, Scotch doesn’t have the same punch when mixed with tea.
“So, I hear Xander is having a campout in his back yard.” His attempt at being casual falls flat with that pointed glance he thought I didn’t see.
“You heard right.”
“I’ve noticed you two have drifted apart lately.” And there it is. Counseling hour begins. The joy.
“Nothing to report there, Rupes. He’s a bollock and I have no use for gits like him.”
He wears a displeased grimace on his face when I called him by name, then releases a sigh. “I understand Xander can be a bit infuriating.”
A scoff. “A bit?”
“You two have been close friends since we’ve arrived to Sunnydale. You barely had a friend when we were in London.”
I lift my bored gaze off the empty glass to his face. “Meaning?”
“Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” A small smile with the promise of more cliché phrases if I don’t do as he says.
I fling my head back with a groan and then drag myself up and head towards the coat rack.
“William, are you taking the cup with you?”
The cup that smelt of Scotch? Glancing at Rupert, still occupied with the tree, I make my way toward the kitchen as casually and soundlessly as possible.
“Where are you going?”
Bleeding hell, nothing gets past him! “Going to wash the cup.”
“I can do that.”
“No, it will take a second.”
The cup gets washed, with excessive scrubbing and rinsing until it started smelling lemony fresh. Leaving it to dry, I fetch my coat and salute dear old pops.
“Do be careful.” I wave him off and start out of the door. “Oh, and William?”
I turn around to face him.
“You don’t have to sneak some alcohol into your tea. You’re already eighteen.”
Gob hangs open.
He smirks. “Keep in mind we’re in California, though. You won’t get served outside the house.” His expression dissolves into a serious stare. “I’d rather you drink in front of me and not behind my back. Do I make myself clear?”
He smiles. “Now go get Xander.”
I don’t know where the ponce’s house is. A fact I should have realized before I walked a few blocks away from Rupert’s. Maybe I should go back. Tell the old bugger our offer for a cozy Christmas Eve dinner has been refused. Not like he and the boy are close, if anything he’s always appeared exasperated by the twit.
A light breeze passes by causing a shiver to run down my body. Never felt this cold in, well, can’t remember ever feeling this cold or any type of cold for that matter. Another valid excuse for bailing on the lad and rushing back to huddle near the fireplace.
But then, Xander’s lonely sniffles in the library earlier today comes attacking with a vengeance.
Fine. Will pick up the ponce. Get him fed and pampered, then send him on his merry way.
More rounds around the block and no house looks remotely like it belongs to a sad poof with bad clothes.
“William?” a familiar voice asks behind me.
I turn around and grimace. “Oh, it’s you.”
“What are doing out in the streets this late at night?” ex-boyfriend demands, ignoring my displeased reaction.
I step up, arms folded. “Could ask you the same thing.”
Larry stares at me, mouth set in a grim line and eyes hard with dislike. “Guess it’s none of your business anymore.”
My mean smile is delivered with a head tilt. “Then I suppose we should part ways.”
He stifles a sigh and starts walking the other way.
As he’s getting further away, my nostrils flare as I realize that he probably knows where Xander lives. And I sent him away. Oh, balls.
Time to test my acting chops.
“Wait, Larry,” I say with a voice I hope is loaded with guilt and not at all phony, “things don’t have to be like this between us.”
That stops him. There’s a good chap.
“I’m sorry for being a first class git. I was going to Xander’s house and seemed to have…”
Now he’s looking at me like I’m speaking another language. “You just passed his house.”
Larry indicates with his head at a one story house with two pine trees just a few steps away.
Larry bites on his lips and throws a hard steel look coupled with an exasperated headshake. “I don’t like someone pulling my chain. You know that more than anyone.”
Now that I know where Xander lives, must find a way to get rid of Jock boy here. “Told you, first rate git here. Should know better than to talk to a bad seed. Lesson learned for next time. Off I go.” I stride toward Xander’s house, yapping away, almost in the clear…
“I don’t understand what I did wrong,” whipping boy won’t let it go, “I just… I don’t get what I did to deserve this.”
I need a smoke. If Rupert didn’t have the nose of a bulldog, I’d be blowing smoke rings right about now. With a barely restrained sigh, I toss the boy a side glance. “It’s all me, mate. Don’t wanna abuse the cliché, but this time it is truly me and not you.”
He’s got that heartbroken puppy face on and all I think about is the delicious smell of Rupert’s roast turkey.
“I have changed,” I yap on, “in the literal sense of the word. I’m not that Nancy boy anymore.”
He doesn’t say anything, just stands there, puppy eyes and all, so I take my exit and quicken my pace to Xander’s backyard. Here’s hope I’ll never see Larry’s face again.
Now there he is. The reason I’m out in the cold. The only lackbrain sleeping outside at night. An easy snack for any passing vampire. I’d wager suicide attempt, but that means giving him more credit than he deserves.
A lantern, a comic book, a half-empty plate; some wild party was in the works here. Can’t see how he remembered taking off his trainers before he passed out from all the excitement.
I’m suddenly distracted by the sound of a woman snapping couple of sharp ones and receiving a loud smack for her trouble. Then comes the sound of glass crashing and a pained howl of a man. Behind the window of Xander’s house, two figures engage in a ruthless battle of wits. Now that’s a party.
I shift my gaze to Sleeping Beauty here, looking complete out of it. I use the sole of my shoe to tap his shoulder. Nothing. With a sigh, I crouch before him and an aggressive shake does the trick.
Waking with a startle, he blinks up at me in confusion. “What the…?”
“Get up. Off we go.”
He bolts up. “Buffy found Angel? Is she in trouble?”
I scoff. “Who cares? We’re going to Rupert’s for the Christmas Eve feast.”
A long calculating stare. “Your dad made you come here.” He lies back down. “You don’t wanna spend Christmas with me anymore than I do, so why don’t you just leave?” He starts pulling the top flap of his sleeping bag over his head.
I yank the thing open and look him in the eyes. “Look, Rupert cooked a hell of a feast. And I’m feeling a bit peckish. What ya say we move this along?”
Xander’s eyes grow wide as he stares at something behind me. I let out a sigh. “Don’t tell me. It’s a vampire.”
Of course. A vampire is looming over us. He’s looking a bit peckish himself.
The vampire attacks. Xander pulls me back and we end up crawling away like a pair of sprayed roaches. The vampire takes a hold of my leg and drags me back until he’s sitting on me. I try driving a punch to his jaw, but he grabs my hand easily and twists my arm. Pain shoots down my arm and I feel my eyes tearing up from the pain, lamenting the strength I used to take for granted.
The vampire’s weight is suddenly lifted off of me. I blink my moist eyes up at Xander, who wastes no time as he pulls me up by my throbbing arm no less. Oi!
“Let’s go in!” Xander rushes me into the house. “I don’t have a stake on me.”
“No stake? What are you, retarded?” I bark at him, letting myself be dragged into the house.
Xander slams the door shut behind him and starts breathing heavily.
My arm is killing me and the liquor in the other room is inviting me, if only I can get around Xander’s shouting parents.
“Would be bad taste if I didn’t say hi to your folks.”
Xander rolls his eyes. “C’mon.” He yanks me by my injured arm, again, and races to a room in the back.
“Oi! Watch the arm!” A longing stare at the liquor. “I was raised better than that.”
As he hauls me into a dark room, I’m hit with the horrible stink of old socks and pizza leftovers.
Xander kicks the door shut and leans against it, taking long shuddering breaths. He notices me staring at him.
I lift an eyebrow and slowly move my gaze to his hand still clutching mine.
He lets go like his hand caught on fire and brushes back his hair bashfully. “Sorry.”
This time my stare holds no ridicule. For the boy who complained about Willow ‘not touching him anymore,’ he does strike me as a clingy fellow who likes his share of coddles every now and then. To have his hand literally catching fire every time he has a physical contact with a female –that’s all his friends when counting the fallout with William – this whole ordeal must have been exceedingly difficult for him.
Getting too uncomfortable by my piercing stare, Xander turns on the light and then trips over a black beanbag on the floor. The boy’s room can use a garage sale. Haven’s seen so much rubbish since Dru broke into an antique doll store in Milan.
Xander is struggling to get to the window while I drop on his bed, only to recoil up to my feet when I realize I just sat on his dirty undies.
“He’s still in there,” Xander grumbles, peering outside the window. “Damn it! He’s taking my comics.”
I tilt my head and narrow my eyes at him. “Don’t understand why you didn’t sleep in your room in the first place.”
The extremely loud sound of glass breaking followed by some bellowing drifts from outside the room.
“Now I do.” I shake my head, frowning up at the basketball hoop hanging on the wall. Xander doesn’t strike me as a sports fan.
“Gets much louder on holidays. Maybe because bars close,” Xander says absentmindedly, still staring out of the window.
“Doesn’t explain sleeping outside a safe home without a stake.”
He looks at me then, but it’s not the look of deer caught in headlights. “Don’t read too much into it.”
“I forgot, okay?” His arms shoot up defensively. I purse my lips, not buying it. “Yeah, well, I’m as stupid as I look.”
“Can’t argue with that,” I mumble, leaning against his desk and knocking a giant alarm clock to the floor.
“Why don’t you just go home, Will?” He opens the window and tosses an old pizza box outside.
“Aren’t you coming with me?” I ask, watching him flinging more bags and boxes of junk food out of the window.
“I might be stupid, but I know when I’m not wanted.”
“Fine. Suit yourself. I’ll tell Rupert you’re going to…” I pause at the sight of snow falling out of the window.
Xander follows my line of sight and stares out in astonishment. The world seems to have fallen silent, even Xander’s loud parents have stopped backbiting. Some snowflakes float into Xander’s bedroom through the opened window so he closes it and watches at it begins to frost.
I make my way over the pile of dirty and clean clothes and stand beside the boy. His sleeping bag is now covered with snow along with his unfinished dinner plate and trainers. I blink down at the boy’s bare feet then up at his face where a thoughtful expression clouds his features.
“So, what do you say?” I try again, and this time I actually smile. One corner of my lips is lifted. Barely. But still, a smile.
“Don’t be daft. Rupert is a great cook.”
“I know. Why do you think I swing by your house every morning?”
He sighs. “Fine.”
This time we jump over his bed to get to the door, avoiding the dirty underwear on the way. Xander is about to step out of his house.
“Uh, Xander?” He looks at me. “Shoes? Coat? A scarf maybe?”
“Right.” He snaps his fingers and rushes back into the house.
I shake my head. “You are as stupid as you look.”