Notes: The following is set in one of the AUs created by Brian Lynch in the ID Angel comics in which Angel managed to rescue Connor from being kidnapped by Holtz but pushed his friends away in the process and his continuing paranoia. Angel turned to Spike as the only person left who he trusts to care for toddler Connor in his absence.
Summary It's Christmas, and it looks like Santa's running a bit late.
A Christmas Tale
Peals of high-pitched laughter erupted from the piles of shredded wrapping paper in the middle of Spike's room in the Hyperion. Connor squealed as he threw handfuls of colorful paper up in the air, letting it fall on his head like snow. Spike reclined on his sofa, watching the spectacle with bemusement. He supposed that what people said about kids having more fun with boxes and wrappings than the gifts they got was true.
"Uncle Spike!" Connor, clad in his footie pajamas, ran over to the blonde vampire and pointed towards the wrapping paper mountain. "Presents!"
"Well, Nibblet, the presents were technically in the paper," Spike smiled, lifting up the three-year-old to sit on the sofa next to him
Connor giggled, "More presents!"
"As you wish." Spike reached over to one of the many unopened gifts on the coffee table and handed it to his 'nephew' as he read the tag. "This one is from your Auntie Fred."
Connor tore into the packaging of the large rectangular package to reveal a complete boxed set of the Harry Potter books. "Harry!" he shouted, holding up one of the books.
"And just in time too. Harry's overdue for another adventure," Spike ruffled Connor's shaggy brown hair.
When Spike ran out of fairytales and other children's stories to read to Connor at bedtime, the vampire turned to J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien to provide entertainment for a very avid, if a tad hyperactive, listener. They had just finished The Chamber of Secrets a few weeks prior, and an opportunity to get the third book never presented itself
The last few years had been a learning experience for Spike. After getting his soul, he knew he could never go back to Sunnydale, and somehow he found his way to Angel's doorstep. It was very fortuitous that Angel's overprotectiveness of Connor had driven his ragtag band of friends away, leaving the great brooding grump in need of a qualified babysitter. A fellow souled vampire, however, made due in a pinch. Of course, agreeing to look after the kid while Angel went on jobs a few nights a week quickly turned into a full-time position with Spike acting as a live-in nanny. Angel's paranoia about Connor's safety led to Spike rarely leaving the Hyperion except to grab groceries and run other errands when Angel stayed at home
Just because Angel's friends had to keep their distance did not mean that they forgot about Connor. They always sent him presents on special occasions, though always careful to leave him in the lobby when Angel was off on a job. This year was no exception with Connor receiving, along with the books from Fred, a set of toy robots from Gunn, a puppet theatre from Lorne, and a bevy of outfits from Cordelia.
"Here's one from Uncle Wesley," Spike held out another gift
The tissue paper inside the bag flew as Connor pulled out a cheerfully-printed canvas tote filled with kid-friendly art supplies. The boy beamed happily, "I can make drawings like Daddy!"
Before Connor could start an art project on the coffee table, Spike distracted him with another present, "And this one is from me."
Connor marveled at the large box for a moment before tearing into it. The boy pulled out a rather corpulent stuffed alligator with big button eyes from the wrappings and hugged it tightly. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome, kiddo," Spike felt particularly proud of himself at finding a toddler-appropriate toy to suit Connor's growing fascination with dinosaurs and lizards of all sizes.
Idly, Spike wondered if he ever went through an animal obsession phase as a child. He remembered having an alligator-shaped pull-toy made from leather when he was quite young, but it was not exactly made for cuddling. Maybe reptiles were one of those universally shared parts of boyhood
Connor dragged his newfound fuzzy pal around Spike's room, showing off all of his gifts and explaining who they were form, before he stopped suddenly with a quizzical frown. He turned to Spike and asked, "How come they don't see me?"
"Who?" Spike replied, shoving some of the wrapping paper into a trash bag.
"Uncle Gunn and Auntie Fred and everyone!" Connor responded with his blue eyes wide, following behind Spike
"It's complicated, Nibblet, but maybe you'll get to visit them one day." Spike hoped that answer was enough to satisfy the kid's curiosity, but the stroppy look on Connor's face spoke volumes to the contrary. Spike sighed, "I think you'll understand better when you're older."
Connor put his thumb in his mouth petulantly, "You always say that."
"Well, I was right about the toilet not being a monster, and I'm right about this," Spike answered matter-of-factly, picking Connor up to rest on his hip. "Chin up, Santa won't come if you're all pouty."
Connor perked up suddenly as if remember that Santa Claus was bringing even more presents. This year finally saw the concept of Christmas, much like birthdays and other holidays, finally sink into Connor's three-year-old brain. Of course, he knew they were times for presents and not much else, but it perked him up
"I gotta get to sleep! Hurry!" Connor tugged on Spike's shirt until the vampire tucked The Prisoner of Azkaban under his arm and carried him back to Angel's suite.
When Spike had first arrived at the Hyperion, he lived on a separate floor from Angel, but, shortly after, he moved into the room next to Angel's for convenience's sake. Angel's suite was much larger than Spike's single room, and the full-sized Christmas tree all lit up made Spike a little envious. However, he noted that Angel had not left out any presents under the tree prior to leaving to meet with his client
Placing Connor back on his feet, Spike let the boy run to his room to begin his bedtime rituals-- brushing his teeth, checking the closet for monsters, and arranging all his toys on his bed just the way he liked them. He made a quick introduction of his old toys to his new plush alligator as he crawled under the covers. Spike pulled up the rocking chair next to Connor's bed, the boy's first without safety railings, and began to read the first chapter of the third installment of Harry Potter to him.
Before Harry had the opportunity to blow up his Aunt Marge like a hot air balloon, Spike realized Connor was already fast asleep. Setting the book on the nightstand, Spike turned on Connor's nightlight and tucked the comforter around the boy snugly.
Stepping out of the boy's room and leaving the door ajar, Spike breathed a sigh of relief. As much as he enjoyed being needed, Spike admitted to himself that 'round-the-clock childcare was a business probably best left to the professionals or, better yet, Nanny 911. He sat on the leather couch and flicked through several Christmas specials on the television, keeping the volume low
Spike looked over his shoulder every so often to check the clock on the kitchen wall. Worry did not settle in until three o'clock rolled around with no word from Angel. Though Angel could be techno-illiterate from time-to-time, he had managed to figure out his cell phone for the most part, and he usually called if he was going to be this late, if he was able
Stretching out on the couch, Spike intended to only close his eyes for a few minutes. However, Connor bouncing on his stomach at 7AM in tears made him realize that his quick nap had turned into a deep snooze
"Uncle Spike, Santa didn't come!" Connor sobbed, pointing to the still empty tree skirt. "Was I bad?"
Spike's brow furrowed as he held on the crying toddler, jogging him a little against his chest. "Don't be a silly weeble. Santa probably just got held up a bit. I bet he'll be here when you least expect it."
"Do I have to go back to sleep?" Connor sniffled, rubbing his nose on his pajama sleeve
"Of course not. Santa's just getting old and ponchy. You know, when I was a wee little thing like you, I got all my presents on Christmas Eve. Now, you have to wait until Christmas Day. Imagine what it'll be like for kids by the time you're grown. They'll be lucky to get their presents by New Year's," Spike reassured, though Connor showed no signs of letting go of his vampiric caregiver's shirt. "Let's get some breakfast, yeah? I'll make you some strawberry milk."
Connor looked rather pitiful, but he managed a little smile that was like Kryptonite to what was left of Spike's Big Bad exterior.
Right after Connor dug into a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, Angel hobbled through the door, covered in muck and mire, though he smiled and waved towards his son.
"Hi, Daddy!" Connor chirruped with a mouth full of food
Spike went to Angel to see if he needed any assistance, but Angel stopped him, shrugging off his coat.
"Seems like Santa forgot to visit a certain hotel," Spike spoke in a low whisper as he followed Angel into his bedroom
Angel gritted his teeth as he shut the bedroom door and began to change clothes, not caring that Spike was in the room, "Save the guilt trip. I feel bad enough as it is."
"Is that what your soul does to you? Makes you feel guilty for nearly giving your son a heartache when he thinks Santa forgot him, but not make you feel guilty enough to not work on Christmas Eve?" Spike folded his arms over his chest, forcing himself not to stare as Angel removed his stained shirt. "You can't keep Connor cooped up in here forever. Notice that he's getting a bit pudgy? Running around that pathetic excuse for a garden out front is not enough activity for him. Not to mention that eventually he will have to go to school and--"
"You're not his parent," Angel replied, going into the bathroom to mop up the blood on his chest and face
Spike responded, "I might as well be. Do you know what Connor's favourite color is or what his favourite cartoon show is? Face it, I bloody well spend more time with him than you do."
Angel held back a growl and obviously struggled to keep his composure, "We've been through this before. I'm doing the best I can."
"Let me go play Magnum, then," Spike said. "You can spend more time with the kid, and, if I get dusted, no one's going to miss me."
"Connor would miss you." Angel's expression softened as he buttoned up a clean shirt. "He talks about you all the time."
"While that's really touching," Spike smiled sadly, "Connor needs you."
Angel opened his mouth to speak again but paused. He pointed towards the closet and asked, "Can you get the gifts out of the closet while I go try to save Christmas?"
Jogging back to the kitchen, Angel picked up Connor and hugged him, "Looks like Santa got a little confused, buddy, and he left all of your presents in my room."
"Told you Santa was getting too old," Spike spoke as he brought out the wrapped packages and deposited them under the tree, unable to stop himself from feeling his anger towards Angel lessen as he watched Connor's eyes light up.
Angel carried Connor to the tree and sat on the floor with him, letting him open his gifts from "Santa." Connor chatted away about the gifts he got from Spike the night before, even as he marveled at all the new gifts he received. Moments like these always made Spike feel like a third wheel. As he backed out of the apartment, Connor took notice.
"Uncle Spike, I gotta get your gift," Connor called out as he tumbled off Angel's lap and ran into his bedroom. He came toddling back out a few moments later with a large piece of paper. In crayon, one black and yellow blob and a smaller blue and brown blob stood amongst a patchwork of colorful lopsided squares. "It's you and me and all the books we're gonna read!" Connor explained proudly.
Spike took the paper and grinned, petting the boy's head as Connor hugged his leg, "Thank you, Nibblet. I'll have to get it framed."
"And I made one for Daddy," Connor returned to his room and brought out another drawing with a black and brown blob holding the smaller blue and brown blog. Standing beside the black and brown blob was the black and yellow blob. "It's us!" Connor smiled, pointing out each blob as Angel held the paper.
Connor threw his arms around Angel's neck, and Angel hugged him in return, glancing up at Spike, asking him to stay without saying a word
"You're getting very good at drawing, Connor," Spike praised the child as he sat back on the couch. "I really like all of the blobs-- I mean, us together like that."
"Me too! We should be together all the time," Connor nodded as he returned his attention to the packages still under the tree.
Angel rubbed Connor's back as he began unwrapping more of his presents, "I think I'd like that too."
Spike remained unsure if Angel was being really sincere, or if, come Boxing Day, he would still mean it, but the idea of being together like a bunch of colorful crayon blobs did not sound so terrible to Spike.
x-posted for my posting day at rekindlespangel.