X X X
“God rest ye merry Gentleman,” Darla warbled along with Spike, candles clutched in their gloved hands. Looks of gaiety and piety were harder to fake than decent singing voices but they did their best. Angelus just mouthed along, struggling not to laugh while Drusilla held the sheet music for them. He was waiting for her to set them all on fire with the way she held the candle too close to the paper. Snow fell wet and heavy on them.
Still, he had high hopes for his little brainchild. Spike had been very pleased two nights before when carolers had found their modest home. They made for a plump, tasty meal with no work involved. Angelus sighed a little, remembering the sweet pious girl in the titian overcoat. Darla wore it now, and the deep red-brown-orange coloring looked good with her golden hair. The original owner had similar coloring and soft virgin thighs until he and Spike had at her. Her screams were more delicious than her blood.
It was after seeing how easily people opened their doors to carolers that Angelus was struck with a bit of brilliance. Darla had been moaning for weeks about the smallness of their current abode and she was right about that. She and he were always tripping over Spike and Drusilla. Spike annoyed him and Drusilla’s ramblings grated on Darla’s nerves, which meant he in turn would be annoyed.
They had picked one of the more exclusive neighborhoods to try their little trick in. He wanted a house at the end of the row, hopefully in a cul de sac where there would be less nosey neighbors. They were holding out for an older couple or better yet a widow and claim they were distant relatives in to help nurse dear ‘granny’ while she was down with the croup that turned into a sudden case of death, leaving the house to them.
So far they had badly entertained two young couples and a sleepy-eyed opium fiend with more money than brains. If they didn’t find more promising prospects, Darla suggested they go back to him. As the whole quartet of vampires broke out into “Jingle Bells,” the door to the large home cracked open, the heavy evergreen wreath swinging, and a matronly looking woman peered out. The lines around her mouth deepened as she smiled.
“Which charity are you collecting for?” she asked, shuffling out onto her porch, pulling her wrap tighter.
“It really doesn’t matter,” Angelus said as Dru was on the woman in a heart’s beat. She buried her teeth in the old woman’s wrinkly neck.
“Save us some, pet, not that I imagine that old bat has much in her,” Spike said.
Dru pushed the unconscious woman towards him with a scowl. “She sticks in your teeth.”
Darla moved past them into the house. “I’ll pass. I’ve got snow in my dress, and I’m tired of all this awful singing.” She shook out the hems of her skirts to get rid of the ice balls that had collected.
Spike carried the dead old woman back inside and dropped her next to the evergreen and ivy swag covered staircase. “Smells like a bloody forest in here.”
“It’s nice, my love. You can hear the wind whispering in all the needles,” Dru said, dancing toward the parlor.
“That’s the wind blowing between your ears,” Darla said, following her.
“Don’t say stuff like that to my Dru,” Spike snarled, going over to Dru to put a protective arm around her.
“Will you all just shut up,” Angelus growled. “Come on, William, you and I need to check this place out and see if there’s anyone else around that we need to worry about.”
“I keep telling you it’s Spike!” the younger vampire bellowed.
“Whatever. You check down here and I’ll go look upstairs,” Angelus said, ignoring William’s ire.
By the time he was satisfied the house was theirs alone, his companions were all in the parlor. Darla had her bared feet next to the hearth – every inch of which was covered with evergreens, ribbons, apples and oranges – wiggling her cold wet toes. Drusilla was studying the Christmas tree covered in cranberries and popcorn tinsel. Holly berries, as red as any blood, dotted the tree. Dru seemed to be trying to divine her future in the glittering glass balls that hung from the branches. Spike was already into the old woman’s port.
“Pour me a glass,” Angelus ordered, glancing out a window through all the strung holly and ivy at the snow.
“Oooo, Daddy, look where you are.” Dru ran over to him and kissed him.
Angelus looked up and saw the ball of mistletoe dangling from a swag of holly above the doorframe. “I didn’t see anyone else living here but to go through this much decorating, she probably has family. This might not be the best house for us after all.”
“Or maybe she just gets into the spirit of the holiday,” Darla suggested. “We should be good for a few days before anyone comes calling. We do need to get rid of the body though.”
Angelus peered out the glass panes, looking between the small wreaths hung there. “It’s starting to snow hard. I don’t want to go back out in that. Spike, you killed her. You dispose of her.”
“Bloody hell, it was your damn plan, you do it,” Spike said, downing his port and pouring more.
“No fighting my boys,” Drusilla said before Angelus could retort. She took Spike’s hand. “Come, Spike. We can put her down with the coal and roots.”
Drusilla led him off, still grumbling. Angelus flopped down on the couch and snagged the bottle of port. “He’s not worth the distraction he provides Dru with.”
“Says you. He keeps her occupied and that makes me very happy.” Darla said, fluffing her snow-wet hair.
“How happy?” Angelus favored her with a licentious grin.
Darla returned it. “Shall we go upstairs and claim a bedroom now so I can show you?”
Angelus swept her up, pausing briefly under the mistletoe for another kiss before carrying her up the stairs.
X X X
Spike dragged the old woman down the stairs to the basement. Drusilla’s little lantern didn’t do much to cut the gloom. “So, where did we hide the root cellar, you dried up prune?”
“Here my star.” Dru pointed to a small wooden door. She set down the lantern and helped Spike carry the corpse over.
Spike opened the tight door. A strong sweet smell roiled out. “Smells good in there,” he said as he peered inside to see if there was room to hide a body for a day. He took a silver cigarette case out of his pocket and slipped a cigarette between his lips. He struck the Lucifer match against the stone wall of the little cellar and was blinded by a huge flash, followed by a wash of pain.
X X X
Angelus and Darla, half undressed, thundered down the steps into the basement to see Drusilla trying to beat the flames out on Spike’s head. Angelus tore off his shirt and flung it over Spike, covering the titian flames, so like the color of Darla’s stolen overcoat. It was almost a shame to extinguish the lovely color and what did he care for William anyhow?
There was only one thing concerning Angelus. “We can’t let the flames spread to the coal bin or we’ll have nothing left of this place!”
They managed to extinguish the flames, Angelus and Darla hitting a little harder and longer than absolutely necessary to put Spike out. The dazed vampire stretched out on the stone, moaning. He didn’t seem too badly burned with one notable exception. Drusilla knelt beside him cooing at him in an attempt to soothe Spike.
“What the hell happened?” Angelus asked.
“Don’t know. I lit a match and boom,” Spike said. “How bad is it?”
“Your head looks like aged beef, all fuzzy.” Darla laughed.
Spike’s hands went to his now hairless and eyebrow-less head. He winced as he probed reddened burnt skin. “This isn’t funny.”
“All depends on your perspective,” Angelus said, grinning broadly. “At least you didn’t manage to burn down the house.”
Darla stepped over Spike and went into the root cellar. She sniffed then picked up a cloth-covered brick. “You idiot. These are marinating fruitcakes. All the alcohol fumes must have built up and your cigarette caught it all on fire, like a vampire flambé.”
Angelus roared with laughter, slapping his thigh. Drusilla pouted at him, hugging Spike tight.
“Are you telling me I was nearly killed by a damn fruitcake?” Spike moaned, pressing against the cool stone floor.
“Always knew they were deadly,” Darla said, wrinkling her nose.
“If I had known, I wouldn’t have put it out. I’d send the Watchers a report myself. William the Bloody, the only vampire to die by fruitcake,” Angelus said, between chortles.
Spike growled and leapt up, tackling him. As they rolled around the basement, getting covered with coal dust and grime, Darla and Drusilla put the old woman into the root cellar, and then Darla shook her head at the men, already tired of their antics. Drusilla seemed to read her mind and handed her another brandy-imbued cloth covered cake.
“Enough!” Darla roared. “You’re driving me insane. The next toe out of line gets it with a flaming cake.”
Angelus and Spike both stopped, looking at her in horror. Their clothes were ripped and Angelus’s long hair was in disarray. The ladies exchanged looks.
“Show them how deadly the cakes are, Grandmummy!” Drusilla urged.
Darla broke the fruitcake in half, handing part to Drusilla. By the end the cellar and the vampires were covered in crumbled cake and reeking of brandy. Angelus swung Darla up, licking a bit of cake from her cheek.
“I think we were in the middle of something before the idiot set himself on fire,” he said, heading for the stairs.
“Hey!” Spike protested.
“Dru, keep your boy entertained,” Darla called as Angelus took the steps two at a time. “And if you see the holly and the ivy shaking, don’t come upstairs!”