Prologue: by Bogwitch
24th December 2004
“I can't find anything in this town but sodding Christmas stuff." Spike
sighed as he dumped a small bag of groceries onto the motel bed. “And you
have to fight through all the people to get it. You should have seen the
queue at the butchers, Blue.”
He’d been out on his usual grocery run, picking up the few bits and pieces
they both needed for their comfort. The usual blood, booze and cigarettes
for him, whatever Illyria decided she needed at the time for her; but today,
so close to Christmas, what was usually a quick trip had turned into a nightmare
of piped carols and traffic, crowds of people and screaming children. He
never wanted to go outside again. Bloody Holidays. The last thing he
needed right now was Christmas in the way.
Illyria didn’t reply to his complaints, but that was nothing new. She
spoke when necessary, not troubling herself with something as trivial as
conversation. Sometimes when she did speak, he’d wish she hadn’t, the terms
of her disgust with the world tumbling from her mouth as she spat the words
out. Most of the time, it didn’t matter; she’d stand in silence and he’d
take up the slack, filling the quiet with his own words as he guided her
through a life she found startlingly new. He at least, was used to being
alone; but for Illyria, used to the deference and veneration of legions,
the harsh reality of being anonymous in a big, bright modern world was proving
difficult. She had never admitted it to him, but Spike knew she needed him
for the moment, as a guide and interpreter to a dimension of which she had
little knowledge. And, despite how remote she could be, he needed her companionship
for the duration, even as he missed having people to joke or bicker with,
or even just to talk. But, for now, their arrangement seemed to work well
enough that way.
After their disastrous attempt to bring down Wolfram and Hart, the survivors
had gone on the run. After they had seen to the brief funerals of Wesley
and Gunn, Angel had gone off, who knew where, to draw the heat of their pursuers
away from the rest, while Spike had ended up with the Illyria straw. He hadn’t
minded; he’d rather keep the Blue Meanie amused any day, than sneak about
under the radar of the Senior Partners, looking for an opening that might
never come. He was better suited to the protection of cranky, strange women
anyway - Angel could keep the martyrdom.
Never staying anywhere for more than a few days, they’d been on the run
for seven months now, slowly drifting from place to place. They’d headed
nowhere along a zig-zag path across America; a vampire, a motorcycle and
a fallen god king riding pillion on the back. It was an easy life on the
road, as long as their money held out. Angel had given them a wad of cash
and had rarely been heard from since, disappearing into the population, only
to appear at times when they least expected, updating them on their pursuers
and to replenish their dwindling funds.
But now, well into the chill of December, the year was coming to its close.
Angel hadn’t been seen for a couple of months and the odd close scrap,
with demons out to make a few bucks or vampires just looking for trouble,
indicated that Wolfram and Hart were closing in steadily. Spike and Illyria
didn’t have time for the holiday season to slow them down.
As Spike warmed to his subject, he waggled a finger expressively at Illyria,
who stared back impassively with the usual distain in her huge cold eyes.
"If I hear another Carol Singer, I'll… I'll do something,” he frowned. “At
least back in the day I could just eat them."
Illyria tilted her head curiously, the movement slow and mechanical. "I
do not understand."
“Christmas Carols. Annoying singers singing annoying songs. Every. Bloody.
Year. Can’t bleedin’ escape them.”
“These singers have powers you cannot fight?”
“No, Princess,” Spike shook his head, mildly amused by her confusion.
“They’re everywhere you bloody go, and if it’s not them it’s soddin’ Christmas
songs; the same ones, year in, year out. You think they’d record some new
“’Christmas’?” Illyria replied, saying the word with distaste. “You speak
in riddles unknown to me.”
"You know, Christmas! Holly, Ivy, Reindeer and Jesus. All that crap."
"I know nothing of this ‘Christmas’." Illyria’s tone indicated that she
couldn’t care less either.
Spike plonked himself down on the end of the bed. "It’s nothing you need
to be concerned about, just a holiday. We just sit tight and the good cheer
will all blow over by Boxing Day.”
“This ‘Boxing Day’, it was a day of sport?” Illyria asked, starting to
get interested despite herself.
“Not really. Nothing like that,” Spike sighed again. “It was something
we used to do back home. They used to give boxes of alms to the poor on the
day after Christmas.”
Illyria considered the prospect. “You returned the limbs of those fallen
on this day. Why should you do this?”
Spike chuckled. “Alms, Bluebell, alms. A.L.M.S. Not the things
your hands are attached to. It’s stuff given to the poor in charity.”
“In boxes?” Illyria said, still contemplating his words.
Spike smirked. “As in ‘Boxing Day’.”
Illyria ignored his snark. “On feast days many warriors would come at
my command and fight for my entertainment. They were honoured to die for
my amusement.” If he’d thought her capable of it he’d have sworn she was
feeling nostalgic too.
“Look, Illyria. It’s not like that. Christmas is the birthday of ‘Our
Lord Jesus’, or something…”
"I serve no Lord." Illyria pronounced, sharply. “All looked to me as their
ruler. They trembled as they dared to look upon my grace.”
Spike started to roll his eyes, but stopped when he remembered he was
mimicking Dawn. God, he missed her sometimes. He dismissed that thought
right away. Thinking of Dawn meant thinking of Buffy, and in their current
predicament… He didn't want to think about her. "Don't worry about
it. It's a human thing, best left alone."
Illyria frowned, no mean feat for a dour deity. “I wish to know the meaning
of this ‘Christmas’.”
Spike shuddered at the thought of being dragged into a Hallmark Christmas
Special. “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. Not going there! You’re talking to
the wrong bloke. I haven’t had anything to do with Christmas since I was
alive. Except that one time, when Dru went to that Santa’s Grotto back in
Boston and we ate all the helpers… But vampire! Remember? Mean, nasty… Hey,
what are you doing?”
He watched as Illyria silently moved to the motel room door. She reached
out and pressed her gauntleted hand against the dirty, painted wood, dislodging
the Management Notice so that clattered to the floor. She squeezed her eyes
shut and her face began to show the strain of her efforts.
“Illyria?” Spike stood up slowly. All those months spent in Illyria’s
presence had taught him to move cautiously around her. The last thing he
wanted now was to be kicked into the opposite wall. “Illyria, What’s wrong?
Are you alright?”
She gasped and the air around the door began to wobble and throb, rippling
as reality distorted into pulsating waves.
Illyria’s eyes flicked open again at his shout. Her arm jack-knifed out
and her hand clamped onto his bicep like a vice. “You will teach me.”
”Hey!” He protested, but his words were lost as the motel room became