Xander fingered the envelope in his pocket one last time before taking a deep breath, unlocking the front door of the apartment and stepping in.
Spike, as usual, was sprawled on the sofa, remote in hand, empty bloodstained mug on the coffee table in front of him, and a box of Girl Scout cookies in his lap.
"You're late, pet. Starting to get worried, I was. Everything okay?"
Xander's fingers clenched around the envelope again and then withdrew.
"Um, yeah. I just had an... unexpected visitor at the site."
One look at Xander's nervous expression had Spike turning off the TV. "Who was it, Xan? What's got you all wound up?"
"I..." With a sigh, Xander shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the hook next to the door, then pulled the slightly crumpled envelope out of the pocket and crossed to the sofa. Sitting down, he leaned in for a quick kiss before pulling back and grinning weakly.
"Remember last month, when I came home early because of the storm, and I walked in on that poker game that had ended up here because Clem had the exterminators in and K'thar's wife had put her foot down and refused to have you in their cave again after last time?"
Spike winced in remembrance, and nodded, puzzled.
"Well... Remember Clem's cousin was selling raffle tickets to raise money for the demon families that had been hurt by the Initiative, and you told me not to bother buying any because it was a mug's game and I'd never win anything anyway?"
Spike nodded, unsure of where this babble fest was heading, but willing to go along for the ride. Something had his Xander wound up and he wanted to know what it was.
"I bought a hundred dollars worth of tickets. I know!" Xander held up a hand before Spike could ask him what the hell he'd been thinking to drop that kind of money on a raffle. "I know, it's not like I can really afford it, but... the Initiative, Spike. They broke up a lot of demon families, and when we destroyed the underground base, we didn't exactly bother to make sure the non-evil demons got out safely. Lots of kids lost one or more parents, and there were a lot of kids down there as well. I felt I owed them, Spike. And I wasn't bothered about the thought of not winning anything either, because... Honestly? Most of the prizes I recognised wigged me out, and I had to stop Clem when he tried to explain some of the others. Ew!"
Xander shuddered in remembrance. "But you were wrong, Spike. I did win something, after all. Here." He thrust the battered envelope into Spike's hand and took a deep, calming breath. "I won the big prize, Spike, the one that got every demon in a hundred mile radius of Sunnydale buying tickets. I won us the cruise."
Opening the envelope, Spike glanced inside. A thick bundle of paperwork lay next to two official-looking cardboard passes.
"That's great, Pet. But what am I supposed to do while you're on deck sunning yourself, hide in our cabin until the sun goes down?"
"Spiiike, look at the tickets! They're from the Demonica Cruise Line. Clem brought his cousin down to the site to hand the paperwork over, and they explained it all to me."
Xander settled back on the sofa and grabbed up one of Spike's hands, lacing their fingers together as he began to repeat what had been said to him less than an hour ago.
"Demonica got started up about ten years ago by a B'Thaug demon who realised that there was nowhere for the upmarket demon to holiday without fear of being pointed at or screamed over or attacked by an unruly mob."
At Spike's incredulous expression, Xander grinned. "Look, this is what Clem's cousin told me, okay? Just shut up and listen."
"The B'Thaug demon decided to set up a cruise line for demons. He financed the whole thing himself, and nearly went bankrupt when the first cruise ended up limping back to port with over half the crew dead and a fair number of the passengers too." Xander snatched up a cookie and devoured it in two bites before continuing with the story. Spike listened, intrigued by the mention of violence. "He didn't give up. He arranged another cruise, but this time had the ship spelled so that nobody could fight or cause trouble even if they wanted to. Kind of like that karaoke bar in LA that Cordy was telling me about on the phone the other day. Anyway, the cruise was a success, nobody died on this one, and he started taking bookings for another one."
"Doesn't really sound like my kinda thing, Pet. No violence? And you still haven't convinced me it's worth my while to spend my days locked in our cabin until the sun goes down."
Waving another cookie at his vampire, Xander gave a long-suffering sigh. "You haven't let me finish."
"After a couple of years, the B'Thaug demon was approached by a clan of..." The cookie was waved about again as Xander tried to remember the name. "...some weird demons that are allergic to sunlight. I don't remember what Clem said they were." With an apologetic shrug, he continued. "They wanted to know if he would let them book the entire ship for a week-long trip because they wanted to try and negotiate some kind of peace treaty with a neighbouring clan and the 'no-fighting' cruise seemed the perfect location. When he asked about the sunlight problem, they said they had a spell that would protect the whole ship from the effects of sunlight and they had magic-users who could maintain it for the whole week. The B'Thaug demon did a deal. They could use the ship if they shared the spell."
Xander stopped, looking expectantly at his partner. Spike looked back at him, blankly.
"Well what, Xan?"
"What do you think, Spike? Want to go on a cruise with me where you can sit in the sun without dusting? There's a casino on board, so you won't miss your weekly poker game. And there's live music too. We can dance till dawn, Spike, and then go up on deck and watch the sun rise. It'll be romantic."
The stunned expression on Spike's face told Xander that Spike really hadn't assimilated the idea of the sunlight spell until he had heard it put in such simple terms. The vampire often sat on their balcony watching the horizon, sometimes slipping back into the apartment only seconds before first light. Xander knew how much he missed seeing the dawn, and his first thought when the details of the cruise had been explained to him was that he could finally give his lover the perfect gift.
Quick as lightning, Spike's expression went from stunned to horny, and Xander found himself with a lap full of enthusiastic vampire.
"Oh, Pet, this is going to be fun. I bet all those rich demons in the casino will be begging me to take their money. I'll teach you the basics of kitten poker and a few other games and then we'll fleece the lot of 'em and come home with money to burn."
Xander smiled at Spike's excitement but was a little nervous about the plans he seemed to be making. This wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind...
"Spike, I was thinking more of a romantic getaway with an added entertainment factor, not an 'all you can win' extravaganza. I'm not sure I'm ready to face down a cruise ship full of angry demons, I just want you to get to see the sun rise."
"C'mon, Xan. Where's your spirit of adventure?"
"Uh, that's in my other pants. These pants just want to have a good time."
Spike wiggled his ass on Xander's lap and grinned wickedly.
"They seem to be happy enough. We'll focus on these pants for now. Just remember to bring the other pair on the cruise with us, yeah? That way we can have the best of both worlds."
Spike's mouth on his prevented Xander from replying, and soon his pants were having the best time.