Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Merry And Bright
By Amy
For Bear

The fire is a little bit too hot.

Not that this is surprising.

Outside the window, the flames are frightful, a hellish parody of a winter wonderland. They fall like snow, although it's not; it's nothing but a rain of fire.


This is the sixth rain of fire this month.

Xander lies stretched out on the couch, an ice pack over his eye. Once every two months, give or take, his eye gets poked out; it grows back in painfully, and once it's there and he's gotten used to it, it gets poked out again. He never knows just when it will be. It's still growing back in right now, and it hurts.

The ice pack is lukewarm.

It's the first Christmas since Xander's death, and honestly, he didn't think it could get much worse than it was when he was alive. Sunnydale was filled with sleeping outdoors to avoid family gatherings; afterwards, Christmases were inevitably farces composed of reliance on the kindness of strangers, midnight runs to buy additional hams (and vegetarian equivalents), and hotel staff who eyed the one man with the veritable harem of girls and said nothing over their cold stares.

This is worse. And he wouldn't mind a cold stare nearly as much anymore.

The knock at his door drags him off the couch, ice pack falling to the floor, hands clumsily buttoning his shirt up as he walks. "Who is it?" he barks without caring.

He's greeted with a cheerful smile. "Xander! I haven't seen you since-"

"Since you died. In the Hellmouth. Which was already after you'd been dead for over a hundred years." Xander closes his functioning eye briefly. "Go away, Spike."

"Have you seen the weather? You can't bloody well send me out into that." Spike nods backwards at the flame-filled sky, and reveals the arms of his duster. Six or seven holes have burned clean through the material.

Xander considers this. "Actually, I could."

"You aren't that stupid," Spike says.

"Don't underestimate me."

Spike sighs. "Alright. You could be that stupid, or that evil, but we both know you aren't, so could you please invite me in before anything more valuable than the coat goes up in smoke?"

"It's Hell. Isn't it a demon free-for-all anyway?"

"Not for those of us getting punished, it's not." Spike smiles grimly. "Come on. I brought fruitcake."

"I wasn't planning on doing anything for Christmas."

"That's alright. I can do it for you. You have a kitchen, right?"

Xander nods vaguely at a door inside the house, which cloaks a stove, a microwave, and a rickety chair and table set, but unsurprisingly, no refrigerator.

"They were out of ham," Spike continues blithely, "but I found a turkey. Just as big as a--"

"I honestly could not care less," Xander says, and he's almost sure he's not just posturing.

"But it's Christmas! "

Xander sighs, frustrated. "You are a horrible, horrible evil fiend." Then he gives in. "Come in. Kitchen's there. Don't talk to me and we'll be fine."

As soon as the words have been spoken, Spike elbows his way past Xander, dropping three stuffed shopping bags on the floor. "Kitchen's in there, you said?"

A nod.

Spike is almost in the kitchen when he turns. "It's Christmas, Xander. Remember that."

Xander slumps back on the couch. Spike hasn't commented yet on his eye. He know how it looks in the mirror, although it changes all the time; it's grotesque. He has nothing to cover it, no way to disguise what it is. He wonders why Spike's not talking, what makes him hold back from the taunts that would be so fucking easy. At least before he'd been a pirate.

He replaces the ice pack, which at least covers it, and closes his other eye. It's easier to not see. Seeing's what got him into trouble in the first place.

"Dinner's ready!" Spike crows from the other room.

Or perhaps the problem's always just been staying awake. "I'm not eating," Xander calls back. "I am sleeping until I can't anymore, and then drowning my Christmas spirit in sweet, sweet beer."

"You don't have any beer," Spike replies calmly. "I already checked. Now come eat some roast beast like a good boy."

"Not interested."

"Of course you are. Everybody loves Christmas."

"You hate Christmas," Xander says. "Remember the year-"

Spike's voice becomes slow and exact. "Everybody. Loves. Christmas." He makes eye contact with Xander now, and holds it. "Do you understand?"

"I'm not everybody."

Spike shakes his head, just slightly. "Set the table, Xander."

"I don't-"

"Every time you say that," Spike says, "you make it worse for yourself."

"What are you talking about?"

Which Spike, predictably, ignores. "I brought paper plates, but if you have china it would be better."

"I may have plastic."

"Red and green?"


"Alright! You get on that, and I'll finish the stuffing." Spike smiles, baring his teeth, and maybe it's just Xander's imagination but for a second it looks like a grimace. Xander eases his way off the couch, stubs his toe- nothing new there- and proceeds to the kitchen. He can't help but notice the feel of Spike's sweater against his skin as he squeezes past him.

He's pretty sure he's allergic to the wool.

"So how's Hell treating you?" Spike asks conversationally.

"It's Hell." Xander tosses the ice pack in the sink and starts pulling out silverware.

"Well, yes. How's your job?"

"I'm off on workman's comp." Xander uses a spoon to gesture at his re-developing eyeball before placing it on a napkin.

"That looks even worse than it did when it first-"

"Got poked out. Yeah. Never thought the red-hot pokers thing would be literal."

Spike just shakes his head. "Hell is for heroes."

"Something like that." Xander shrugs. His mouth tastes like cotton and his eyes are sore. Even the act of being around another person- another person not there to give him paperwork to fill out or provide his scheduled torture- is an effort, and as much as he should be glad to see someone from the Sunnydale crew, why couldn't it be--?

No. None of them would be here. Of course not. They're all good. Strong. Alive, or if not alive, then in heaven, probably. You don't do what Buffy does, what Giles does, what he should have done, and then end up where Xander is. He gets that now. Hell is for evil, sure, but it's also for the useless, and Xander knows his place.

He sets the table, but the silence is deafening, and he can't get Spike's presence out of his head. "You like it here?" Xander asks. "Your kind of people?"

"The kind I betrayed for years? Yeah, that's been fun."

"Sounds like."

"Eh, s'not so bad. Most of them are just bitter they can't pull off the duster." A sly grin.

Xander glances over. "It's back."

"So it is."

"It was just burning."

"You can't destroy beloved things constantly unless they come back, right?"

Xander's hand has migrated to his eye almost without notice. He brings it down and hopes Spike didn't notice. "Right."

"Right." Xander can tell from the tone of voice that he did. "What are your feelings on figgy pudding?"

"What's figgy pudding?"

"Well, I'm not making some, so it doesn't much matter." Spike shrugs. "Take this?"

Xander takes the dish out of Spike's hands. "Is there blood in any of these?"

"Just the blood pudding. That's pure blonde virgin, it is." A tense pause, a breath lasting an eternity (and isn't that all they have, these days?), until Spike breaks it with a laugh. "It's Hell, Xander. I'm not lucky enough to get human blood."

"Of course not." Xander rolls his eyes. "I'd pour the wine, but I'm guessing we have none?"

"I brought some."

"Oh." Xander refuses to feel uncomfortable, not in his house, not when things cannot get any worse, not when he's already in hell. "Thanks, I guess."

Spike shrugs. "It's Christmas."


Spike doesn't answer, but he makes a face. Xander doesn't know why. but he gets the feeling it's something he won't like when he understands it, and the chills down his spine would normally be welcome, but in Hell even chills make you sweat.

Xander brushes hair out of his eyes- in Hell hair is always too long or too short, and Xander would prefer too short so of course it's been months since he's been able to get his hair cut- and notices that Spike's heaped his plate full, and things don't smell horrible. "Thanks," he says. Spike grins back at him, and opens his mouth, but Xander interrupts. "Let me guess. It's Christmas?"

"Got it in one." Spike pours the wine, a grand gesture considering the only glasses on hand are collectible McDonalds mugs, and they both drink.

The meal isn't bad. It's really not. He's fairly certain that if he'd eaten anything worth eating within the past few months, it would be, but even awful has degrees and comparatively this is downright good. The wine doesn't hurt, either, numbing his taste buds in ways that he hasn't felt in a year. Maybe because he hasn't touched anything but flat beer since getting here. Maybe because he can no longer count the number of times his wine glass has been refilled. Maybe because it's been refilled by Spike.

Xander can feel himself getting clumsy, clumsy and drunk, and when he leans over to grab some more turkey, he slips and Spike has to help keep him from falling.

And he's pretty sure something's not quite right, now. Because he should be feeling something, and there's a wide list of adjectives there, ranging from "crappy" to "shitty" and back again. But instead he feels nothing, and the numbing? Not entirely a bad thing. In fact, it feels pretty fucking good, and if this is what Spike meant about the whole Christmas spirit thing he's not going to say no.

It's not exactly the best idea, he's pretty sure, that he's unbuttoning his shirt while looking at Spike, but Spike looks almost encouraging- or at least not discouraging- and he hasn't been near a human being in so fucking long that his cock's hard just looking at him. And every tiny part of him is screaming that Spike is evil, Spike is wrong, but Xander wouldn't be here if he weren't too, and damn it, wrong is better than nothing, and if Spike can look past the eye socket he can look past the evil undead thing. It's not like he's breathing.

He's never gone for guys, not when he was alive. That was Willow's thing- not the guys, the gay, and now he's sure he's drunk, because all of this is making sense in his head. But this is new, and different, and Spike- well, Spike's about as straight as a really not-straight thing, if you go by what Buffy swears Angel once said, not that he trusts Angel, but he trusts Buffy, always has, especially when she'd drank just enough to not censor herself any time anything about Spike or Angel came up. And Buffy had great stories, stories that at the time he never wanted to hear, all about Spike and Angel and what they were like in bed ("It's different with vampires," she'd said with a giggle. "Way different." and Willow had rolled her eyes and said "how do you know? That's all you've done." and Buffy had protested "Riley!" and Willow had said "Yeah, and I'm sure he lasted more than two minutes." and Xander had snorted laughing and Buffy had said "Yeah, Xan, just wait til we get! Faith in here." --No, don't think about that, not now.) and what they'd told her about hundreds of years of sex experience. But then Buffy was a lightweight, and it took about half a wine cooler to push her from "tipsy and filled with good stories" to "so smashed that you had to prop her up on a pillow", and Xander had barely gotten buzzed by the time she'd gotten there, and it was never going to help him--

But he doesn't care right now, because all that's in his head are Buffy's words, about how Spike likes a blow job ("Is that what you liked, Xander?" and then laughter), and how big his cock was ("I don't want to know things like that!" exploding from his lips, and Willow and Buffy giggling in response), and that one time she got a strap-on for him, and he wants to learn this all on his own but he bets that this is part of that whole Hell thing he's heard so much about.

They don't kiss, because you don't kiss, not when you're manly men, not when you're in Hell, but somehow he's almost naked and somehow Spike is getting there too and he wonders if Spike's going to be cool, wonders if his cock is going to be like a popsicle- he hasn't had anything cold in a year- but when his hands finally stumble upon skin, it's just about room temperature. But his own body feels so overheated all the time now, that's almost like ice. And when he reaches down, goes for Spike's jeans- Spike has to open them himself because Xander's lacking the fine motor skills but hey, that's okay, that's cool, happens to lots of guys- he can feel muscle under skin and it's nice.

There's that moment of wondering about life, about what it used to be, about how he could do this with a soulless monster (you're one too) and then, sadder, about whether or not this is like second-degree-Buffy, and if it is, maybe this is heaven after all, or heaven once-removed, at least.

But if this were heaven it would be perfect, and instead it's clumsy and strange, Spike dropping to his knees ("You don't have to-" he protests, but there's no answer aside from the feelings of a mouth and a tongue and Anya- no, not Anya- and it's not Willow- and it's not Buffy- it's Spike, and that should feel awful, but it doesn't; just makes him strain harder and godDAMN if Spike's not just deep-throating him) and he's harder than he's been in a year and it takes him a moment to realize that it's Hell and he's not going to get to come.

But then there are hands, too, Spike playing at both submissive and giving a fuck and stroking just right, and when he comes he wonders idly if it's literally an explosion because wouldn't that be fucking typical here.

He remembers everyone else he's had, Anya and those post-apocalyptic fucks with any warm body looking for another one (nice irony, there, Xan). Everything hot and warm and soft and slow. Even with Faith, those minutes that dragged into forever around him. But that's not what this is. This is hard and fast and nothing to get lost in, and maybe that's the strangest part of all.

When he comes, Spike smiles around his cock- shit- and fucking swallows, and that's when he wonders if Spike is a miracle-worker, or possibly the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be, but then he stands up and wipes his mouth and smirks at Xander with the perfect shit-eating grin, and says "Welcome to Hell."

Xander just stares.

"You enjoy that?"


"Good, then."

"Ah. Yeah."

But there's a question at the end of the word, and Spike catches it. "Merry Christmas," he says with a smirk, pulling his jeans up around his waist and buttoning them.

Xander doesn't know exactly if he feels betrayed, because he's not sure if he should feel betrayed yet. "What?"

And now Spike's up close, denim pressed hard against Xander's bare skin, whispering fast and hard and mean. "They'll find a reason to punish you, you know," he says. "Not merry enough, not bright enough, not singing a jaunty fucking tune."

"They won't find you?" Xander sputters back, because it's the only thing he can think of to say, even though he knows it's dumb.

"They have." Spike's breath is hot against his ear and it's burning hotter than the rain outside. "But at least I know better than to play it like a martyr."

"What did they make you do?" Xander's voice isn't shaking, it isn't.

"You think I cook Christmas dinner for fun? Think I like getting on my knees for you, think this is on my list of best ways spend an evening?" There's something underneath the words, but Xander can't tell what it is, anger or rage or bitter amusement, and he's not sure which would be the worst of the choices.

"I don't- I mean-"

"This isn't just Hell for you," Spike says, shaking his head. "If it were, what would be the fucking point?"

And then he leaves. He just fucking leaves, shaking his head and muttering to himself. He's empty-handed and he hasn't even offered to help clean up the dishes.

That's cold, is all Xander can think to himself, watching Spike wander off into the flaming downpour.

He'd thought he'd missed the cold. He'd forgotten that sometimes, it was just as bad as the heat.