There was a tree and decorations and presents. There was Buffy and Riley standing under the mistletoe kissing each other and Giles polishing his glasses and looking around helplessly for someone to talk to who could distract him after hearing Anya ask Xander for extra orgasms for Christmas. There was a delicious meal on the table and a pie keeping warm in the oven. None of it, however, was enough to put Willow in a festive mood or even keep her inside Giles’ apartment. She sat outside in the courtyard, wishing that it would snow and knowing that it wouldn’t; wishing that she were anywhere but here and knowing that she had nowhere else to go.
“Penny for ‘em?” Spike’s voice jolted Willow out of her reverie and she glared at him, clutching her chest.
“Spike Don’t do that ”
“Not safe to sit outside so distracted in this town, pet. Would think you’d know that by now.”
“I’m ten feet away from the Slayer, Spike. What vampire would come after me out here?” At the crestfallen look on Spike’s face, Willow hastily amended her statement. “Besides you, that is.”
It hadn’t worked, Willow realized. She’d hit a nerve and she felt awful about it. Unlike the others, she didn’t enjoy reminding Spike of how far he had fallen. Maybe it was because she always hated seeing anyone humiliated and in pain. Or maybe it was because she had fallen so far herself. From cherished girlfriend of a cool werewolf/guitarist to dumped and unloved uber-geek. It hurt to be an object of pity and scorn. No one knew that better than Willow, except perhaps Spike. She decided to try and distract him a bit.
“So, what brings you out here?”
“Same thing as you, Red. All that holiday cheer makes me bloody ill. Not like I celebrate some Christian holiday, now is it?”
“Me either. I used to celebrate Hanukkah, or well, sort of. I mean, my parents were out of town the last few years and well, Buffy and Xander... not so big with the remembering, but...well...now, what with the Wicca thing...only I’m not so sure, because the Wicca group is just so lame and...”
Spike cut her off as she became entangled in her own thoughts. “I get it, pet. No holiday for you either. Guess that leaves us in the same boat.”
She could tell he meant more than just the fact that the two of them were outcasts from the whole “Christmas cheer” crowd, but there was no point in bringing up their mutual state of pathetic loneliness. “Yeah, I guess we are.”
There was an awkward silence for a few long moments as they each struggled to think of something to say that wouldn’t lead them down a rather gloomy conversational path. Still, Willow thought, as uncomfortable as the silence was, it was better than being alone. As wrong as it probably was to feel this way, it was sort of nice that someone else was as alienated as she was, and from the look on Spike’s face, she could tell he felt the same. Funny about things. Of all the people in all the world, for the two of them to have so much in common...
“So, pet, what do you say we get out of here?”
She’d gotten lost in her thoughts for a moment and Spike had startled her by speaking.
He looked a bit put off by her inattention. She’d obviously hurt his feelings again, though she hadn’t meant to, certainly. But it was hard to rouse herself from her own despair sufficiently to fully comprehend someone else’s perhaps greater pain. Misery might love company, but it didn’t always know what to do with it, that was for sure. Still, she owed him more of an effort; he was obviously making an effort for her. So she cast her mind back and hoped she recalled his question correctly.
“Where should we go, Spike?”
She wasn’t sure whether his mind had actually wandered or if he was just getting back at her a bit, but she decided not to rise to the bait. There was enough misery and sadness in her life without alienating the one person who had noticed how lost and lonely she was. She needed a friend, and she suspected he did, too.
“Wanna head over to my parents’ house? They’re out of town. Visiting friends, I think, or something, I’m not really sure. But I do know they’re gone. We’d have the place to ourselves.”
“So what’ll we do, pet? You gonna show me your menorah?” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively and tried to leer a bit.
As double entendres went, it was weak and sad and rather clumsy, but it was the closest thing to a come-on Willow had heard in, well, a really long time, so she smiled... and it almost reached her eyes.
“Hey there, mister! None of that now.” She made sure he could tell her offended tone was just for show as she slapped his arm playfully. “I just figured we could pop some popcorn and watch some movies and have a kind of ‘un-Christmas’ party, that’s all.”
She couldn’t quite read the expression in his eyes. He was looking at her a bit oddly and she wondered for a moment if there was something caught between her teeth. Maybe she shouldn’t have smiled.
“You sure you can trust me, pet? The two of us...all alone...no one there to protect you...”
There went those eyebrows again, and Willow could have sworn there was more conviction in his leer now.
“C’mon, Spike. You know you can’t bite me.”
“Wasn’t talking about biting, Red.”
No eyebrows this time, just a once-over that made her blush to the roots of her hair. No one, not even Oz, had ever looked at her quite that way and Willow found herself almost wishing she could believe he meant it. But she was sure he didn’t, so she decided to play it off, let him know that she knew he was kidding.
“You couldn’t handle me, Spike,” she said with an exaggerated air of arrogance.
“Don’t be so sure, luv, I might just surprise you.”
He gave her a grin that was both sexy and somehow comforting and Willow found herself grinning back at him, this time the expression reaching all the way to her eyes. Spike might be playing a game, but he wasn’t trying to mock her or make her feel bad and Willow felt less lonely than she had in a very long while. She felt like she had a friend, and it felt good; it felt like more of a present than any of the gaudily-wrapped packages sitting under Giles’ tree waiting to be opened and forgotten.
“C’mon, Spike. Let’s go. We have an un-holiday to celebrate and time’s a-wasting.”
With that, she took his hand in hers and led him away. She supposed sooner or later - probably later - Buffy or Xander or Giles would notice that the two of them were gone and that she’d be scolded like a naughty child tomorrow for making them worry, but tonight she just couldn’t bring herself to care. Going inside to tell them where she was headed, and with whom, would only lead to a fight that would spoil the evening for both her and Spike, and frankly, she would rather postpone that misery. It would keep ‘til tomorrow, like a lump of coal waiting at the bottom of the stocking she never hung by the fire. For now, she would just enjoy the night and the unexpected gift of a friend to share it with. She turned to Spike and smiled.
“Merry un-Christmas, Spike.”
“Merry un-Christmas, Red.”