'Tis Better to Give
Willow was horrified. Standing on the corner, ringing a bell beside a red kettle, was a suspiciously familiar-looking ersatz Santa.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she shrieked as a woman who looked like she had little to spare dropped a dollar bill in ‘Santa’s’ kettle.
“Pipe down, Red,” said the British-accented harbinger of Christmas. The most innocent expression in his bright blue eyes, ‘Santa’ asked, “Can’t a bloke do his bit for charity? Supportin’ the poor and needy, I am.”
Willow snorted. “Yeah, right.”
Underneath the beard, his mouth twisted into a grimace. “Hey now, the fact is that these days the Watcher’s not payin’ as much as he used to and what with the price of smokes goin’ up…”
“I knew it!” Willow cried. “You’re conning gullible people out of their hard-earned money…”
“To help the needy, just as I said. I’ll have you know I’m as needy as the next bloke.” He gave Willow a bit of a once-over, noticing with approval the tighter-than-usual fit of her sweater. Not a bad figure there. You know, she was a bit of all right, come to think of it. Him without Harmony, her without Dogboy …but back to business. “And keep your voice down, would ya? If you keep on like that, no one’ll give me a cent. I’ll be a dessicated shell on Christmas morning…fine thing that’ll be…starving to death on a holy day.” Spike gave her his best puppy-dog expression. Here’s hoping it worked from beneath a silly cap and a cotton beard.
Was he really that bad off? Oh gosh. Maybe Giles really was stinting on the payments – he had complained less about money lately. And really, would Spike compromise his dignity to this degree if it weren’t a dire emergency?
But… What he was doing was wrong. He could twist the facts any way he liked, but the truth was that he was still taking money under false pretenses. There had to be a solution to his financial crisis that didn’t involve fraud.
Spike could tell by the softening of her expression that he still had it. But there were also wheels turning behind those eyes. That scared him – after all, that ‘will be done’ mess was still a far too fresh memory. Kissing the Slayer…bloody disgusting, that was.
“Spike?” she asked after a second or two. “If I promise to bring you a cooler of blood and two cartons of cigarettes, will you go home and promise not to play Santa anymore?”
Spike’s eyes grew wide with joy. Of all the luck…of all the wonderful luck. “Cross my heart, Red.” He suited his actions to the promise and gathered his kettle and sign. “See you on Christmas morning, then.” With one more look up and down what he decided was really too good to be going to waste and a cheery wave, he headed back to his crypt.
Of course, he hadn’t actually meant it, he decided. Oh sure, he’d stay off the street corners, but sweet little Red…Jewish though she might be, she deserved something for Christmas. When she showed up…yeah, Santa was gonna find out if she was naughty or nice. After all, she was bringing him blood and smokes.