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He’d never admit it to a living – or un-living – soul, but Spike has to admit to himself that ever since she went ‘round the bend with her mojo last month, he’s found the little witch unnerving… and quite a bit of a turn-on as well. He supposes it shouldn’t surprise him: unstable chits with dark power have always got him going and as much as Willow seems like an admittedly adorable little goody-two-shoes on the surface… Yeah, she’s got it going on underneath the fluff and fuzz.

If only he hadn’t been drunk off his arse back when he’d kidnapped her; the two of them could be blazing a trail of death and destruction all across South America right now instead of… this. Him chipped and helpless and her being morose and penitent all the while nursing a broken heart courtesy of a mutt who didn’t have a bloody clue what to do with a woman whose demon doesn’t wear fur – or fangs for that matter, though Spike would dearly love to remedy that.

Oh hell! The old eunuch who acts as his jailer has put on that blasted Bing Crosby album and the stench of holiday fixings hangs thick and Christian in the air. The brats are tumbling through the doorway to celebrate Christmas. Because nothing says holiday cheer like the doughnut-gobbling whelp and his inflatable sex-demon, not to mention Slutty the Slayer. Thank hell she’s no more inclined than he is to mention their recent and very much lamented engagement, because for a while it had seemed as if even all the virgins’ blood in all the convents in all the world wouldn’t have been able to get that bitch’s taste out of his mouth.

By rights he should be plotting revenge against Willow for that, but no, just as he’s been thinking for weeks, he finds her going off the rails rather alluring, even if he did end up getting run over by the train. He’s got to hand it to her – Angelus himself never came up with a more creative or humiliating form of torture. Speaking of which… pity there’s no video of Buffy declaring her love to him, because he’d dearly love to have dear old Dad see his ‘one true love’ fawning all over him. That’d pay the soul-neutered bastard back for stealing his gem.

Speak of the devil, she’s here too – dragged in by her best pal, the Slayer – although why a Jewish girl is being forced to celebrate a Christian holiday is beyond him. Would it have killed Rupert to at least have a menorah or a dreidel or something about? But no, he merely greets the lot of them with his usual pathetic, hesitant smile and a “Merry Christmas”, not even ‘Happy Holidays.’ Of course the lot of them display rows of classically American straight white teeth as they parrot the same greeting back, even Willow, though she seems a bit pained about it – not that any of her so-called chums notice.

Spike decides to rectify their appalling lapse, though he has to admit it’s not purely out of fellow-feeling for another non-Christian. He knows it will irritate the rest of them when he pipes up with, “Happy Hanukkah, Red.”

Her surprised smile and pinked cheeks are all the present he needs – though even as he thinks that, he wants to kick himself for a ponce. “Thank you. Happy Han… Happy Holidays, Spike.” Yeah, he’s an even bigger ponce now, because he smiles back. What? She had the decency to acknowledge that he’s not exactly a churchgoing fellow anymore.

At least Rupert is man enough – if he’s a man at all, which Spike doubts – to look abashed. “Yes, of course. Happy Hanukkah, Willow.” In the argot of these ill-educated brats: Afterthought much?

“Thanks, Giles.”

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but he fancies her reply to the Watcher is far less cheery than the one to him and Rupes doesn’t get that delicious blush. As much as he finds Willow’s dark side alluring, he is forced to concede that there’s a lot of charm in the wholesome bits as well. He notices something. She’s toting a large purse of the sort usually carried by the blue rinse set which she seems reluctant to let go, unlike the big bag of gaily wrapped presents she’s already set by that ratty tree with its gaudy tinsel and cheap, plastic ornaments. What’s that about? She’s patting it in a clearly unconscious gesture, as if she’s making sure of something inside it… and what’s this? She just shot a look in his direction.

Clearly his imagination is working overtime, or that damned chip has turned his brain to treacle, because the oddest idea has just occurred to him – that there’s a pressie for him in that ghastly purse. It’s not true, of course, but he realizes that he wishes it was. Ponce, that’s what he is. That damned chip has turned him back into…

No! No, no, no!

He needs blood, dammit, so he heads for the kitchen to heat some up.

Willow follows him a moment or so later; he can hear her making some lame excuse to her pals. What’s this then? Can’t a vampire have a moment’s peace? He turns away from the microwave and greets her with as unfriendly an expression as he can muster; it has an effect.

“I… I’m sorry,” she stammers, clearly taken aback and… yeah, her feelings are hurt. She steps back, clutching that hideous handbag, one hand half in it. Bloody hell. There is something in there for him. Nice going, Spike.

“I’m the one who should apologize, pet. Thought you were Harris or the Slayer.” He smiles carefully, trying not to go overboard, but still aiming for charming. It seems to work as her posture relaxes and that hand stays in the bag.

“Oh. I… I just wanted to say I’m sorry. Again. For the spell and everything. I was… anyway, I feel really bad about it and I thought…” Her hand emerges from the bag – holding another one. “I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to wrap this. I kind of had to hide it,” she says as she hands him the brown paper sack.

His senses tell him what’s in it before he reaches inside.

It’s blood. Human blood.

He could cry - well, if he was some sniveling mortal git, anyway.

“I hope you like it.” Like it? She’s wondering if he’ll like it?

He stares at her now, all that sweet humanity and kindness of heart, and he’s suddenly glad he didn’t turn her when he first had the chance – and as close as he can be to glad that he couldn’t the second time. Because even though, yeah, the darkness is what made him take proper notice, this is the girl he wants, the one right here, handing him blood and treating him… like a man.

“I have something for you, too, pet.” Before she can ask what it is, he leans in and kisses her gently on the lips; they taste of innocence and purity and the spice of magic. “Dogboy wasn’t half an idiot,” he says softly. “Don’t you ever think it was anything to do with you. Man’d be lucky to have a girl like you.”

There is a tear trembling at the corner of her lashes and she swipes at her eyes before she turns and leaves the kitchen. He goes to the microwave, takes out the mug, and pours the pig swill down the drain; then he gets out one of Giles’s best china cups and fills it with the nectar he’s received from Willow.

A minute later, it’s heated up and he exercises all the self-control he’s ever had and then some as he sips it – savors it.

He can still taste the kiss they shared as he drinks.

Raising the cup in a toasting gesture, he whispers the same greeting he’d offered her earlier, only now it means something: “Happy Hanukkah.” He thinks next year… yeah, next year he’ll have a menorah.

The End.
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