Theme: Flame or Fire, in medias res, using the word “Wassail” in verb tense.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S/X
Rating: Hard PG-13 for language and innuendo.
Warnings: The following has been brought to you by the letters "Grog" and "Tylenol", and the number "Influenza".
Author’s notes: Parts of this story are true. nerilka can vouch for me here. Names have been changed to protect those who are no longer allowed into Dusseldorf.
Xander said nothing, just wrapped his arms tighter around his shoulders, and tried to sink farther into the hay. Spike, his arctic face limned by fire and moonlight, sighed and rolled his eyes. “Oh bloody hell, Harris, everyone forgets the third verse to Adeste Fidelis these days! Stop sulking and choose another bloody song!”
“I don’t feel like singing,” Xander grumbled, shifting nervously as sparks drifted up from the makeshift heater – a pile of wood and paper in a fifty-gallon drum. “I also don’t feel like burning to death in a boxcar!” He yelped, smashing a lingering ember that landed in his straw-pile, “Can’t you make it stop that?”
Spike actually laughed, tilting his face up into the viciously biting wind. “Nature of fire, city boy. You want out of the cold, then you’ve got to risk a spark or two. And if you don’t mind me saying, that Californian excuse for a jacket of yours isn’t going to serve you dickall in a proper German winter. My advice is to stick with the fire.”
Xander watched the vampire lay the metal lid back on the drum, relegating the light to the many holes pierced through the drum’s side. It was pretty like that, kind of like the luminaria his aunt Gladys had brought back from Mexico for his mother. Only Dad had broken it within the month, and it never saw a Christmas. He sighed, flopping back into the hay. “Okay. Rudolph. Sing that one for me, mister I’m-So-Victorian-And-Know-All-The-Words.
Spike made a face. “We’re singing Christmas Carols here, Harris, not commercials for Montgomery Ward. Pick another.”
“How about I’m-freezing-my-ass-off-on-a-boxcar-some
“Munich,” Spike supplied, “in about twenty minutes, that is.”
“Munich. What the HELL am I doing in Munich with William the Bloody on Christmas Eve, anyway?!” Xander screamed to the uncaring stars.
“Well they won’t let you back into Dusseldorf, Harris,” Spike grinned, tapping out his last cigarette, “And before you start whinging about the company, may I remind you just who it was got you out of lockup in the first place?”
Xander coughed, and leaned grudgingly closer to the barrel. “Yeah, right. About that-”
“Not a question you want to ask, mate,” Spike held up his hand, “Let’s just leave it at me getting you out, and hopefully back to the US, and skip the pesky details, shall we?”
“You didn’t have to hurt anyone,” Xander muttered, “I’m an American. They would have had to let me go...” Wouldn’t they? Grainy film clips, and soundbites from a dozen late night war movies suggested otherwise, as did Spike’s disgusted snort.
“Free clue night, Harris: The Fatherland has never had much of a sense of humour about foreigners running about drunk in the streets,” He made an emphatic point with the glowing end of his cigarette, “Especially not underage foreigners in their pajamas, who don’t have any sort of identification. No sense of humour at all. Course I thought it was bloody hysterical.”
Xander groaned, covering his face. “Shut up.”
He thought about replying with a rude gesture, but then he remembered something – a woozy fact plucked out from the middle of his grog-soaked nightmare, “The guys would have bailed me out. They said they were going to pool their money, and-”
“Those worthless tossers?” Spike laughed, “Your Marine mates had already spent most of their leave pay by the time you all were drunk enough to play straight-line obstacle course down the High Road!”
“No way! Hobbes promised!”
“Hobbes?” Spike mused, “He was that short blonde private, wasn’t he? The one who kept staring at your package while you weren’t looking? Yeah, well I reckon he did try. It’s just every time he got them to pool their cash on the table, someone decided they had to buy another round with it. Oh now you can’t take it personally, Harris,” the vampire offered when Xander groaned again, “it’s just soldiers: They’re all the same, whether Gerry, Joe, or Tommy. Get em started on the drink, and it’s all inertia from there. Thought you’d remember that from your soldier-boy night.”
“Well, that night didn’t involve alcohol, you know,” Xander gritted. But after a moment, a traitorous little snicker escaped him, “Or running over the top of moving police cruisers.”
“Tripping over the top of moving police cruisers, I’d call it.”
“Hey! Those lights were higher than they looked! And I didn’t have any running shoes-”
“You didn’t have any shoes at all, nor trousers neither!” Spike’s teeth flashed in the glimmering light as he rubbed it in. “Not the best kit to go falling arse over teakettle in, mate.”
Xander sat upright, face flushed and outraged. “Yeah? Well I didn’t see you turning back to help me!”
“Didn’t see you go down,” Spike shrugged, blowing a slipstream of smoke into the night, “One moment you’re leading the howling mob, and the next, you’re nowhere to be seen. By the time I worked out where you were, they had you in handcuffs, and you were flashing your hash all down the arresting officer’s dress-bloody-blues!”
“I have a nervous stomach.” Xander said between his fingers.
“Harris, I’ve seen you face down half the native fauna of the infernal planes, your drunken bloody relatives, and, I might add, me on a bad day! You’re not telling me it takes a badge to heave you over!”
“Well the fall-”
“You did it again all over the back seat of the cruiser, mate.”
“Fuck.” Silence filled the car, until Xander couldn’t stand it anymore. “It isn’t my fault! I didn’t exactly plan any of this! I was supposed to be camping out on my front lawn tonight,” he jabbed a stick through one of the barrel’s holes, and sent up a shower of sparks inside, “which is in Sunnydale, California, which is in the United States, which is nowhere NEAR Munich, OR Dusseldorf!”
“Well in that case, here’s a little phrase to repeat to yourself: I, Alexander Harris, do solemnly swear NEVER to say any sentence beginning with the words “I wish” when talking to strange little girls who turn out to be demons!”
“How was I supposed to know she was a demon?”
“What bloody girl in your life ISN’T?” When Xander didn’t answer, Spike dragged on his smoke, and went on. “Second free clue of the night then: When one is completely arseholed and pelting down the street in one’s sleepwear, and a police cruiser turns the corner, it is generally wiser to go ‘round the bloody thing!”
“I would have gone around, only...” Spike looked at him expectantly, blue eyes glimmering with barely restrained laughter until Xander finally gave up the truth, “only I didn’t want the guys to laugh at me.”
“And how’d that work out for you then?”
That did it. Xander struggled up out of the hay, almost too angry to notice how the wind turned his pajamas into a billowing sail of ice. “God, Spike! Just for once I wish you’d-”
He was totally unprepared for it when the vampire blurred into motion. He didn’t even get a yelp off before the shadowy mass barreled him back into the straw. A moment later, Spike reared back clutching his head, but his leather-clad hips stayed where they were, pinning Xander's down firmly. “What,” the vampire hissed, “did I just tell you?”
“She’s-” he swallowed, tried again, “She’s not here right now.”
“That you can see,” Spike grumbled, settling himself in a way that betrayed no intention of him getting off Xander’s lap, “Didn’t Anya teach you anything about vengeance demons?”
Yes! Remember Anya, that’s the ticket! Soft, girly-curvy, red-blooded-American-boy-bait! Nicest um-arms in the Scoobies... Xander shifted uncomfortably, Think about how she’d rip your lungs out if she found out you got hard from a vampire pinning you down! Well that helped. Xander coughed, experimentally. Yeah, voice steady enough. Safe to speak. “Well, as demons go, I think my little visitor wasn’t too bad.” He shrugged as Spike raised an eyebrow. “Well, when you think about it, she did grant me not only what I asked for, but pretty close to what I actually wanted too.”
Spike threw back his head again, but this time he was laughing. The moon, peering through the opened roof, picked out glimmers of frost in the vampire’s spiky hair before diving back under a cloud. “And here was me thinking Our Xander was as vanilla as they came! Never figured you for an Arrest Fetish!”
“No, I did NOT wish to be arrested, I wished-” he flinched back as Spike held up a warning finger.
“I heard what you wished. Bloody typical Hallmark sentiment. Wish like that ought to have seen you wassailing for Grinch-biscuits in Whooville!”
“Drinking in a pub in Dusseldorf’s not so bad, by comparison,” Xander said as if that settled it all. Because he really really wanted to find some topic of conversation that would get that hard, cold, tantalizing weight off his- “So how are we getting home, anyway?”
As if in reply, the fire gave a hollow ‘floomph’, and turned riotously green.
“What the-” Spike leapt free, turning in a billow of black leather as the metal lid went sailing straight up through the freight car’s loading hatch, spinning out of sight like a steaming-hot, slightly dented UFO. A moment later, the flames licked tamely, greenly up to form themselves into a viridian, beaming Willow.
“See?” She said to someone behind her, “I told you the theory was sound!”
“Um, Will?” Xander stood carefully, abruptly glad of the cold wind filling his pants. “Been hitting the Harry Potter a bit much, haven’t we?”
“Hey, mister I-get-teleported-overseas-without-leavin
“Yeah!” Called a faintly Anya-like voice from somewhere in the green flickers behind her.
“Course not, love!” Spike put in, throwing a warning arm around Xander’s shoulders, “He wouldn’t dream of disrespecting your... um... you know, it really does look like floo-”
“Right! So, us! Getting home now!” Xander interrupted, stepping on undead toes without appreciable effect, “How about it, Will?”
“Well, you just jump into the fire, and that should do it.”
Willow put her hands on her hips and looked determined. “Look, you two, I’ve been up reading all night to get this spell down, and I haven’t had my breakfast yet, and that means I am officially cranky! Now are you going to get your butts into that fire, or do I have to summon something nasty to go over there and shove you in headfirst? And don’t think I won’t, ‘cause Buffy can always Slay it after!”
“Hey!” Buffy-voice this time. “On vacation here!”
“It’s okay, Will, really!” Xander soothed, “We just need, you know, a minute first, alright?” He swallowed, nodding at the rigid, begreened vampire beside him. “For Spike to work up his nerve.”
“Sure, but don’t take long. The powder’s burning pretty fast.” And then she was gone, leaving only the flickering ghosts of the Revello Drive living room in the column of flame.
“Your favorite.” Xander said before Spike could curse at him.
“It’s my turn, I’m choosing,” he glanced at the fire, told himself it would be like running through a waterfall. Waterfalls were green, weren’t they? “I want to hear your favorite Christmas Carol.”
The blue eyes blinked. “Now?”
“Got a better idea?”
Spike stared for a moment longer, ice-carved face immobile as Xander took hold of his hand – for courage, of course. Then he took a deep breath. “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,” the vampire’s sterling tenor filled in the hollows of the rushing wind, and Xander was startled to realize he knew this one.
“Please put a penny in the old man’s hat,” he sang along as they backed up, step by step along the lengh of the boxcar, “If you haven’t got a penny, a ha-penny will do.” Their shoulders hit the metal wall together, fingers tightened. “If you haven’t got a ha-penny, then-” Running now, feet slipping on loose straw and icy boards. “God!” Kicking off, legs hurdling high to clear the metal drum, arms pressed tight in sympathetic stride, “Bless!” A whirring noise, and the green fire spun them away, leaving only their last, shouted “YOU!” echoing behind.
A moment later, a young-looking girl stepped out of the shadows, her face set in a petulant moue. “Well. I’d have figured him for a ‘Good King Wenceslas’ man, myself.”