She heard the doorknob turn, and smiled when Willow walked in.
"Hey, Buffy." She looked at the books on the bed as she got behind Buffy. "Whatcha doing?" She wrapped her arms around Buffy's neck, and kissed Buffy as she turned her head.
"Reading. So how'd it go?"
"What? The last day? Chanukah? That 'it'?"
"Good. They left an hour ago. Visit family."
"So, it's just us?"
"Yep." Willow read part of the book. "You're reading about Chanukah?"
"Yeah. Here's what I was thinking. Remembering how Thanksgiving isn't your most favorite holiday…and you don't celebrate Christmas, I figured we could do something a little different this year."
"You don't have to…"
"Yes I do. This will be our first holiday together, and I want it to be special."
Willow pulled Buffy out of her sitting position, and into a laying one. "But I already feel special."
Buffy ran her hand through Willow's hair. "And so do I. But I wanna do this."
"Okay. What's the plan?"
"Well, I know the dates are gonna be off, but seeing as how you already celebrated, it won't matter so much. Right?"
"So, I was thinking, we could all do the eight day candle and presents deal starting on the seventeenth, because it'll take us at least a week to get things together.
"Then on Christmas, the 25th, we could have a big dinner with everyone at my house, tree, put little dreidel ornaments on, Star of David on top, and mom's coming back then, so it should work. What do you think? "
"I think…it'll be perfect."
"We need to plan."
Willow got excited. "Oh! And…we could call it Chanukmas!"
Buffy laughed. "That'd work. We just invented a new holiday. Kinda fits us."
"We're all about inventing and compromising. I mean that's what makes a relationship work, right?"
"Right." Buffy smiled, kissing her again.
It was December 13. Yesterday was their last day of classes. Now they were enjoying the start of their month long vacation from college. Buffy and Willow, along with Xander and Anya, were shopping. It was pretty easy telling everyone, though they didn't tell their parents yet, about the shift in their relationship. Giles and Xander were both pleased to see them happy, especially after the cloud of mopiness that had surrounded them lately.
"Chanukmas. I like it. Goes together. Like -" Xander started.
"A vampire and a stake?" Buffy asked.
"I was gonna say peanut butter and jelly, but whatever floats your boat."
Anya pretty much could have cared less. The fact that all she seemed interested in was Xander, left the rest of them hoping that he never screwed up around her. Or that she got her demonic gifts back.
"I don't see the point. All you're doing is adding another holiday to a culture that's already overflowing with holidays that have been celebrated so long people forget the meaning behind them. And considering the fact that it's a combination of probably the two oldest ones, it isn't even very original." Anya said.
Both Buffy and Willow turned around and frowned at her. "It means something to us." Willow said.
"Remember that talk we had? If you wanna be human, you have to learn to take other people's feelings into consideration. And if you're gonna have those thoughts…"
"Keep them to myself?"
Buffy whispered to Willow. "Are you sensing shades of Cordelia?"
"Minus the intention to cause pain? Yeah. Speaking of, did you want to invite her?"
"Do you think she'll come? Well, if we invite her, we'd kinda have to invite…"
"Angel?" Buffy nodded. "Well, it's up to you."
"Right. Well," She sighed, "we need 8 candles, cotton wicks. Olive oil ones, right?"
"Wow, you really did read up. Don't forget the menorah and a Shamash candle."
"It's extra. Candle in the middle used to light the other ones."
"Ah. Me understand."
"That sounded a little cave-ish, Buff. Are you reverting again?" Xander asked.
"I don't think so."
"Cause you never know. It could be like an Incredible Hulk kinda deal. Like every time you get angry you start drawing paintings on the walls and carrying large, hurtful, stone clubs."
"Then don't get me angry."
Xander was quiet after that.
After purchasing the necessities for Chanukah, they split up into two groups the next day. Xander went with Buffy, and Willow went with Anya. One, to get the Christmas decorations; and two, to get presents. The first step, was a tree. Buffy and Xander went to the nursery.
"Are you sure we got everything for -" Buffy started to ask as they looked at the trees.
"Somebody's got an obsession about holidays."
"It's important to me. Holidays never seem to go right, but I want this one to be...perfect. Just once. If I have to lock every single vampire in Sunnydale inside a room lined with holy water and a sunroof -"
"I get it. More than you might think."
"Now, are you going to answer my question?"
"Willow's got the dreidel and the Star of David for the tree, her and Anya are getting some decorations, cookie dough, I think all that's left are the gifts."
"Gift! I have to get her a gift!"
"Actually eight gifts."
"I forgot to tell you. She and I are giving each other gifts on our own. For the eight nights, we're gonna have kinda a Pollyanna. It'll be me, Willow, you, Anya, Giles, Cordelia, Angel, and mom."
"And we're assuming Angel and Cordy are gonna show?"
"They'll show. Anyway, we'll all exchange gifts for eight nights, and whatever ones we end up with on Christmas, are the ones we'll have to open. I told mom about what I was gonna do a couple weeks ago, so she set a gift aside. I really wish she could be here for…" She sighed. "Well, at least she'll be home on Christmas."
"There's the positive Buffy we all know and love. Any other things I should know?"
"The gifts have to be gender-less."
"Damn. I could have used new pantyhose."
"Keep that skeleton locked away in your closet, okay? So…tree and gift…tree and gift…"
Willow and Anya walked through the temporary Christmas store in the mall, Joy and Merriment.
"Garland, lights, what else do we need?"
"A CAT scan."
Willow glared at her. "Look, no matter what religion celebrates what, it's the time of year when everybody stops being mean and nasty."
"That's fine, but what about the other eleven months of the year?"
"Okay, I'll admit that niceness shouldn't just stop. I try to be nice all the time."
"I hadn't noticed." Anya said with a twinge of sarcasm.
"But no one can be all cheery and selfless all year round. It's just one of those things humans keep trying to achieve. I don't know…hey wait a minute. You're an ex-demon who tortured humans willingly. And you're criticizing that we're bad and that we've forgotten the meaning of our holidays?"
"At the request of mistreated wives. They have some sick minds. Which proves -"
"But did you have to carry out their wishes?"
Anya looked at her feet.
"That's what I thought. You enjoyed doing it."
"I'm trying to change. It's a lot easier being a demon than being human. Humans are full of contradictions and feelings, and it's hard to figure out what I'm supposed to do. Demons--or at least I--was focused on one thing. It's easier."
"I'll bet it is. But if you think I know something you don't about being human, sorry to disappoint you, but I don't. It's a new challenge every day."
"And I have Xander to help."
"And I have Buffy."
"So…which color lights are we getting again?"
Willow smiled, and they went to look. "White, I think."
"Isn't there supposed to be a gift exchange ritual of some kind?"
"What am I going to get her?" Willow asked, panicked.
Cordelia walked into Angel's office, and wasn't surprised to find him with his feet up on his desk, with a book in his hands. He put it down when he heard the click of her high heels cease.
"Calling it a night?"
"Yeah, I'm probably gonna go, well I guess it's home, for a week. Buffy and Willow put this thing together and…"
"Go. They'll be glad to see you."
"Well, they, I mean Buffy and Willow, kind of invited you too."
"I know. I heard the message."
"Then you know…"
"That if I don't show up it ruins the present exchange." He opened his desk drawer, and pulled out a small, wrapped gift. He handed it to her. "Tell them I'm sorry I couldn't make it."
"You know, if Doyle were still here, he would've made -" She stopped herself, still hurt at the death of their friend. "He would've made you go."
"I wouldn't be good company."
"Since when are you good company?" She sighed, mentally smacking herself. She sat down on the edge of the desk. "That came out wrong. They all know that you're a brooding vampire who almost never smiles, but they want you there anyway. You're luckier than you realize.
"We both are. They're friends, as much as I hate to admit it, and I kinda miss 'em. And I know Christmas isn't your time of year, but you should go too. Sitting here won't do you any good. Being around people might. I know it'll help me."
"There's just things that…I can't."
Cordelia looked angry, and then almost sorry for him, as she hopped off the desk and towards the door. "It's your loss. Enjoy your book. Oh, and have a good holiday."
It was time. The start of Chanukmas. Willow was walking around Buffy's living room, looking at what they had done. A wreath was on the door, and various decorations were all around the house. The fireplace was going, and mistletoe hung on the ceiling between the entrance of the living room and dining room.
The tree was by the door, adorned with silver garland, strings of popcorn, a mixture of ornaments, and to top it all off, the Star of David. The white lights left the room dim. It was beautiful.
They stuck their presents for each other, and the two for the Pollyanna, underneath the tree. Buffy's mom's gift was there as well. Willow hoped that she could make it before Christmas.
The menorah, situated with all the candles, was sitting by the window waiting to be lit. It was nearly five-thirty.
"Buffy, we have to light the first candle in a minute."
"I know. I just need to check on the cookies and…" Willow heard an instrumental version of Silent Night start to play. Buffy walked into the room carrying a lighter. "Wow. We really pulled it off, didn't we?"
"We sure did." Willow said as Buffy walked over to her. "You ready?"
"You light the Shamash candle first." Buffy handed her the lighter, and Willow carefully lit the candle. "Usually before you light the first candle -"
"The one on the far right?"
Willow smiled. "Uh huh. You say a blessing. You don't have to if you don't -"
"No…I do." Buffy said grasping Willow's hand. "I know what to say and everything."
"Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
"Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season." They said together.
And then without a word, Buffy went to light the first candle. "Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season." They said together again.
They turned to each other and hugged, and then kissed softly. "Merry Chanukmas, Buffy."
Buffy smiled wider. "Merry Chanukmas, Will. And remember tonight's only the first. Got seven more to go."
They stood there a moment, and then separated, when they heard a knock at the door.
"We come bearing gifts." Xander said walking in front of Anya into the house.
"And jelly doughnuts." Anya said. "He said they were necessary."
Willow graciously accepted the box of doughnuts. "They are. Practically a delicacy."
"You can put the gifts under the tree, Xander." Buffy said.
"Roger. Place looks great." He said placing the gifts down.
"Thanks. Giles said he'd be -"
"His car's coming up the street now." Willow said. The timer went off for the cookies, and Buffy moved towards the kitchen. "I'll get 'em."
Buffy smiled in thanks, and went to welcome Giles. She immediately noticed that his gift was rather large. "Hi…and how much did you spend?"
"Isn't the whole point of wrapping a gift not to allow people to know what the gift is?"
"Pull logic on me, why don't you? I'm just curious."
"You'll just have to wait and see. Wonderful decorating, by the way."
"Well, Willow deserves half the credit too."
As if on cue, Willow walked in carrying a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies. Xander, not needing to be told, rushed over and stuck one in his mouth.
"Careful, they're -" Willow started, as Xander pulled the cookie off of his tongue in pain. "Hot."
Twenty-five minutes later, they were still waiting on Cordelia and Angel to show so they could pick gifts. In the living room, Xander and Anya were sitting on the floor, and Giles was on the couch. The need to fill Xander's eating habit meant Buffy and Willow had to make frequent trips to the kitchen.
"Will! You got a dreidel?" Xander called.
"Why? Do you wanna eat that too?"
"Yeah. Hang on."
Buffy and Willow came in, and walked under the mistletoe.
"You know what you gotta do now, don't you?"
"As if we need a mistletoe." Buffy said kissing Willow.
A blush crept onto Willow's face as she handed Xander the dreidel and Buffy handed him another bag of Cheesy Chips.
"What would I do without you gals?"
"Hire a maid probably." Willow said.
"Bah Humbug. Now, time for the Dreidel game. Ooh Christmas colors."
"It's a Chanukmas Dreidel." Buffy said.
"You do know how the game is played, right Xander?" Giles asked.
"Please. You don't grow up being friends with a Rosenberg and not learn how to play the Dreidel game."
"Then get on with the explanation." Anya said.
"Somebody's pushy. Anyway, see these four symbols on the sides? Well, the one that looks like a W is called…"
"Shin." Willow supplied.
"Right. The one that looks like one of those stone things at Stonehenge is called Hey, the one that looks like a bone is called Gimel, and the last one that looks like a pipe, is called Nun. They mean something. I think."
"'A Great Miracle Happened There'. Meaning Israel, I believe." Giles said.
"And I have the perfect gambling pot." Buffy reached underneath the sofa, and pulled out a large bag of Peanut M&Ms, and a bowl. "It was hidden so there would be no premature eating." She said, looking at Xander.
"If you land on Nun, nothing happens, and somebody else spins. If you land on Gimel, you get it all. If you get Shin, you have to add an M&M to the bowl. If you get Hey, you get half of what's in the bowl." Willow said.
Xander was about to spin when there was a knock on the door, then it opened.
"Can I come in?" Cordelia asked.
As they started to get up to greet her, Spike ran in past Cordelia who screamed in shock. Spike, tied with rope, tripped and fell to the ground. "Damn bloody holidays."
After Buffy tied Spike, again, to a chair, and said a quick 'hello' to Cordelia, she dragged Giles into the kitchen.
"What's he doing here?" She asked.
"I wasn't going to leave him at my house alone, Buffy. I thought he would've stayed in my car until I left here."
"Well he didn't. Didn't you lock your car?"
"Of course I -" Giles suddenly looked horrified, scared at what damage Spike might have done getting out of the car. "Excuse me." He ran out of the house.
Buffy walked back in the living room where everyone else was involved with the Dreidel and Spike was staring at the switched off TV. She walked over to him.
"Okay, listen. You behave, or I stake you."
"You know it's moments like these that I'm glad we didn't go through with the whole marriage bit. You have abusive tendencies, and I don't think I could have taken it."
"I'm trying to block that out of my mind."
"You're not the only one."
"Good. Then…watch some TV." She walked over and turned on the television and "It's a Wonderful Life" came on.
"God, anything but this."
Buffy grinned, and sat down in between Willow and Cordelia. As she opened her mouth to speak, she saw Anya giving Cordelia her best icy glare. "So how you doing?"
"Honestly? I've been better. Um, Angel…couldn't…"
"Kinda figured as much." Buffy looked a little hurt for a second, then shook it off.
"I tried. Presents are under the tree." Cordelia still looked distracted.
"What happened?" Willow leaned in and whispered to Buffy about Doyle. "Oh. I'm sorry. He seemed nice."
"He was. He was…I have to -"
Cordelia quickly got up, and went upstairs.
"So much for perfect happy holidays."
"We should -" Willow started, hugging Buffy close to her and looking at the stairs.
"Wait." Buffy said gently, putting her hand on Willow's shoulder.
Xander quietly had gotten up and walked up the stairs as well. Anya watched him go, and then turned to Willow and Buffy.
"I've always despised ex-girlfriends."
Cordelia stood in front of the mirror in Buffy's bathroom cursing herself for crying.
'I'm Cordelia Chase, damn it! Stop crying.'
But as much as she wanted to be that same old, uncaring high-schooler she was before she went to LA, she couldn't be. Not anymore. She had lost someone she cared about. Someone she was starting to fall…in love with.
She jumped a little when she heard the slight tap on the door. "Who is it?"
"It's me." Xander said, turning the knob. He walked in and shut the door behind him. "Wanna talk about it?"
She broke down. Completely. And she started to cry into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her softly.
"Whatever happened…you'll get through it. Hey, if you can survive me, you can survive anything."
She laughed a little. "You were never a…thanks." She pulled away, and wiped the tears away from her eyes. "She came back, huh?"
"Who, Anya? Yep. Once they get a taste of the Harris charm -"
"You're so full of yourself, you know that?"
"Yes. Yes I do."
"Well, it's good that you can admit that. She's certainly -"
"Go ahead. Make fun of my dating an ex-demon."
"Demons aren't so bad." She said, fondly remembering. "I was gonna say, she seems very…into you."
"I am too. Into her, I mean."
He put his hand on her shoulder. "Come on, its holiday time. Cheer. Whoever he was, have fun for him. I bet he would have wanted you to."
Cordelia smiled, reaching for the doorknob. "Oh, he was into fun alright. He would've drunk a gallon of eggnog, passed out, woken up, taken some aspirin, and done it all over again."
"Bar hopper, huh? My kinda guy."
"You have no idea."
Downstairs, Giles was yelling at Spike.
"My door is broken. Broken! My seat cover -"
"It took me awhile to jar that door loose, mate. I think I bruised my shoulder."
"Well forgive me for not rushing to get you a bandage."
"This may be the only time I say this, but I think he did you a favor, Giles. Now you can get a car that isn't as old as…" Giles looked at Buffy. "Your books."
"You know what I think? I think Spike is just lonely." Willow said.
"Right. Like I wanted to spend tonight surrounded by you people and the very stuff that I could bloody well do without. Such as, I dunno, crosses and that other holy crap. You know, the stuff that kills me."
"You just be glad I didn't put you close to that very hurtful stuff then. I think Will's right, why would you break out of the car to come in here?" Buffy said.
"I was cold." He saw their disbelieving faces. "Just lay off it."
Xander and Cordelia came downstairs, and he went over to Anya, who ignored his presence. Cordelia walked over to everyone else.
"We ready to pick gifts?" She asked.
"Yes, let's." Giles said.
"Oh, you mean we're all done with the pity and sadness? How wonderful, because I was just about to gag." Spike said.
This time it wasn't Buffy who spoke to him. "That's it. I've had it. You're ruining this, and I won't stand for it anymore. Get me the duct tape." Willow said, fire in her eyes.
Buffy walked cautiously over to Willow. "It'll be okay. I'll just get him some blood…" Spike nodded. "…and he'll shut up. Nothing's ruined." Buffy kissed her quickly, smiled at her, and went to get the pig's blood she had stored in the fridge.
"Okay," Willow said holding a red Christmas stocking, "this is how it's gonna work. We each pick a name out of the stocking. Whoever you get, you get that present. If you get your own name, pick again."
She walked around to each of her friends, and they picked.
"Xander's." Giles said.
"Ugh. Angel's." Xander said, and then apologized.
"Cordelia's." Anya said, showing signs of unhappiness that she didn't get Xander's.
"Willow's." Cordelia said.
"Giles'." Buffy said.
"Mrs. Summers." Willow said.
"K, since mom's not here…yet, we have to pick for her."
"She can have mine." Anya said.
"Whose gonna take mine?" Buffy asked. "And you'll get one from me soon enough, Will."
Willow shut her mouth, and faked a pout.
"I'll take it." Spike offered.
"Why the hell not?"
"You didn't bring a gift, you don't get a gift. Especially from me."
"You want a gift? See this rope around me? It's made of lovely, coarse material that causes wonderful burns and irritation. I feel generous. Holiday spirit and all. You can have it. It's a very useful thing, you know. Maybe you could hang yourself with it."
"Perhaps we should call it a night." Giles said, trying to avoid a potentially hostile situation.
"Yeah…it's late…sleepy…" Willow agreed quickly. "Remember, same time tomorrow."
Buffy, calming herself down, went up to Cordelia. "Stay here."
"Thanks." She smiled.
"That went well." Buffy said later. It was one in the morning. She, Willow, and Cordelia were sitting on the floor of her room, Jingle Bell Rock, playing low on her stereo.
"Really well. No massive wrongness at all." Willow said, next to her.
"Has to be a first for Sunnydale." Cordelia said. "You two seem awfully -"
"Snuggly?" Willow asked.
"No. I get it. Just commenting. I think it's good." Cordelia looked at their shocked faces. "I've grown up."
"Angel?" Buffy asked.
"He's been part of it, I guess. But it was really something I learned how to do on my own. I still think I drive him crazy though. It's hard to break old habits."
"We've all had experience with old -" Buffy started.
"And don't forget bad." Willow added.
"Right. And bad habits. But that's what this whole holiday thing is about. Healing, looking forward, making peace with the past, and…being happy and letting people know how much they mean to you." Buffy said smiling at Willow and Cordelia.
"I sense a hug." Willow said. They did. Cordelia was right about what she said to Angel. She was lucky. Two great friends and a life which was dangerous, but also fulfilling at the same time. She looked at Buffy and Willow.
"Okay, I can see you two need to kiss or whatever…so I'm going go to the bathroom."
She got up, and started walking out of the room, when they all heard noise that sounded like it was coming from by the front door. Buffy, instantly on guard, grabbed a knife from her closet. Not wanting to stay, Willow and Cordelia followed Buffy closely downstairs.
As they neared the front door, the noise still hadn't stopped. Buffy whispered to her two followers.
"Okay, Cordelia. If something starts happening, you scream. You're good at that. Willow, get by the phone and be ready to dial 911."
"Hold it." Cordelia said. "Why are we sneaking? Just open the door and pulverize -"
"One, I don't know who it is. Two, if this person has a gun, and shoots it before I have a chance to do any pulverizing…as much as I wish I could, I can't deflect bullets. I'm not Supergirl."
"Maybe you should buy a vest. You know, in case the demons get creative." Willow said.
"Remind me later. Positions."
Willow went to the phone, and Cordelia stood behind Buffy. As Buffy was about to open the door, the person opened it for her. Buffy raised the knife, and caught sight of the person's face.
Cordelia turned on the lamp, and they all sighed in relief. Buffy put her arm down.
"Well, that was certainly an interesting greeting." Joyce said to her daughter in the kitchen.
"Yeah…um…sorry about that. We weren't expecting…how are you home?"
"They ended the gala early. There were a lot of people who wanted to get home to their families. I got the earliest flight I could. And I tried to be quiet, because I thought you'd be asleep."
"We weren't tired. I'm…glad you're home." Buffy smiled.
"You did a fantastic job. Both of you. How'd it go?"
"Aside from some minor…annoyances, it went good. Oh, you got Anya's gift by the way."
"She seems…nice, and a little different."
"No argument here."
"Looks like you got everything. A chicken too, I hope."
Buffy's eyes went wide. "Chicken?"
"Traditional Christmas dinner?"
"Oh, right…carving of a bird. I can't believe I forgot. I've been so busy and…we'll probably never get one now."
"Sure you can. I can go -"
"No, no. I'll get one. This is independent Buffy. I can handle it."
"Well, just remember that I'm here."
"And I'm glad you are." They were silent, each not sure what to do next. They weren't the most openly affectionate people. Eventually, Buffy caved, and hugged her mother. "Thanks for…being here."
"You don't have to thank me, Buffy. I'm your mother. I'll always be here." A few seconds later, they broke the hug. "Did you reach your mushiness limit yet?"
"Almost." Buffy grinned.
"It's almost two. Get some sleep."
Buffy entered her room, finding Cordelia asleep on the floor, and the still form of Willow lying in her bed. She quietly walked over to her bed, not wanting to disturb them. She sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Is everything okay?" Willow asked softly.
Buffy jumped. "I thought you were asleep."
"I waited for you."
"Yeah. Everything's fine. I feel better -"
"Now that she's here?" She saw Buffy nod. "Good. Then it's time for a nice, restful sleep."
"Sounds good to me." Buffy laid down, and snuggled closer to Willow. "Love you, Will."
"Feeling's mutual." Willow replied, kissing Buffy's hair. "Night, Buffy."
The following nights went pretty much in the same fashion. The lighting of the next candle, arrival of their friends, exchange of gifts. And comments by Spike.
The second night was a Christmas moviefest. Snoopy, Rudolph, Frosty, A Christmas Story, all the classics.
The third night, Willow made Latkes, Hebrew for potato pancakes. After two mornings of searching, the three girls finally found a chicken for Christmas dinner. An expensive one, but they found it.
The fourth night, they watched a video on the history of Chanukah. It explained how the Greek kings had outlawed the Jewish religion. Their army ravaged over everything, and when they entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils, and when the Maccabees defeated them, they searched and found only one remaining jar of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Although it contained only enough oil to burn for one day, a miracle occurred, and the oil burned eight days.
The fifth night, they all went skating at the rink just outside of town, and then out to eat.
It was the sixth night. Anya's hatred of Cordelia had dwindled since the first night. She realized Cordelia was no longer a threat, so she was being civil, and acknowledging Xander's presence again. They were all in the living room just listening to music.
Joyce, sitting next to her daughter on the couch, looked over at Spike, and then whispered to Buffy. "Untie him."
"That's the point. He's a vampire, mom. Tried to kill me and most of the people in this room? Ringing any bells?"
"He can't hurt anyone now, can he?"
"Then untie him. He may be a vampire, but he's still a guest in our house."
Buffy got up reluctantly, and got behind Spike's chair.
"Just shut up. Not a word."
"I knew I always liked your mum."
"Whatever." Buffy said, sighing, and undoing the last knot.
He stood up. "Aw, cheer up, Slayer. I won't tell the boys your mother pulled rank on you."
"Course you won't. Because then they'd use you as a punching bag, then starve you, tease you, and make," She looked at his groin area, "fang jokes. No, you won't tell anybody, Spike. You've got it too good here."
"I swear…I'll rip…"
Buffy walked over toward the stereo, where Xander headed her off.
"Getting our minds off whiny, fangless people," Spike glared at him, "I think it's time for a change in music. Don't get me wrong, I love the classic 'Oh Tannenbaum' and the well written 'Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel', but it's time for some real holiday tunes. First, the comic stylings of Adam Sandler."
He put two CD's in the stereo, and hit play. The song came on.
Xander looked at their puzzled faces. "No?" They shook their heads. Even Willow. "Okay, fine. Try this. Dave Matthews."
He got nods this time.
"Better." Buffy said.
"Adam Sandler's funny and all, I just don't see the hype over that song. They really do need to make better Chanukah songs." Willow said.
"They're right." Cordelia said.
"Actually, I thought they both -" Spike started as Buffy elbowed him in the stomach.
It was Christmas Eve now. Tonight was the group sleepover, so tomorrow they could all wake up Christmas morning and open the gifts. Well, except Giles, who took Spike with him and said they'd be back in the morning.
At the moment, Buffy and Willow were sitting on the couch, relaxing. Joyce had taken the rest of the gang on a drive through the town to see how the other houses set up their outside Christmas lights and decorations. The two of them had politely declined, simply because they were exhausted.
"Tomorrow's gonna be the busiest day, you know." Buffy said.
"Yep. Cooking. Lots of -"
"Cooking. Lots and lots and even more lots."
"Sure is a lot of lots."
"Has to be a lot."
"Because there's lots."
"Yeah…wait. What were we talking about again?"
"No idea." They both started laughing hysterically.
"Okay," Buffy began saying catching her breath, "either we've both just become certifiable, or somebody slipped us some eggnog. A lot."
They started laughing again. When they calmed down, Willow spoke. "Ooh, that sounds good. Make it?"
"Fine. Just be glad I'm a pushover."
"Oh I am." Willow flashed Buffy her brightest smile.
Buffy got up and stood over her. "You know what? Sometimes you just make me want to…"
"Kiss you." Buffy said, and leaned down, and covered Willow's with hers.
"This is nice…" Willow said, when she could get words out, "but it still doesn't get you off the hook. I want nog."
"Okay…you win. But you'll pay."
"You're all talk."
Buffy couldn't think of a comeback, so with a false look of defeat, made her way into the kitchen. Smiling in triumph, Willow got up and went to look out the window. She thought she saw someone. Watching closely, she was sure of it.
Angel stood outside, watching Buffy in the kitchen. She was radiating happiness. Anyone could see that. He didn't know why he came. Maybe Cordelia was right. Maybe he really did enjoy brooding and torturing himself. Why couldn't he just…
"Come inside." Willow said, coming around from the opposite side of the house.
He turned, shocked, and quickly recovered. "That's not a good idea."
"I was giving you an option?" She walked over and stood beside him, and looked in at Buffy. "You obviously want to come in."
"That's a load of poop and you know it. You probably have all these reasons for beating yourself up, and you know what? It's not important."
"I can't. I can't be part of her life anymore."
"Then why are you here?"
"I don't know."
"Do you want to have her as a friend or not at all?"
"It'd be better that -"
"Stop doing that. Don't avoid. What do YOU want?"
"That's easy. With friends. Which you have. And you know that."
"You got my gift, and we're gonna open them tomorrow. Don't you want it?"
"Buffy's mom got yours." She could tell he was cracking. "Look, you can be broody guy all you want back in LA, but not now."
"She probably doesn't want to see me."
"And how would you know that?" Buffy asked walking out the back door. Willow grabbed Angel's arm so he wouldn't disappear. "I only have one thing to ask you." Angel cringed. "Do you want some eggnog?" She smiled.
"Come on. We're not letting you in until we see it." Willow said. It took him a minute to realize what they wanted, and then he smiled. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
They dragged him inside.
The three of them were now sitting on the couch, drinking eggnog as the rest of the group arrived home.
"Now shush, Angel. Mom doesn't know." Buffy said.
"Us." Willow whispered, pointing to herself and Buffy.
"When did you become so dense?" Buffy asked jokingly.
"Must be Cordelia. She's a bad influence." He said straight-faced, and with no change whatsoever in his tone. They both had to hold back their shock. Angel just made a joke, and at someone's expense. "You wanted me to lighten up." He said simply.
Xander walked through the door first, and he scanned the room, his eyes immediately focusing on Angel's presence. "Angel." He nodded.
"Xander." Angel nodded in return.
Xander looked at him for a few more seconds, and both Buffy and Willow held their breath, waiting for the fireworks. Their friend looked away, and at the table. "Ooh, eggnog! More?"
"Kitchen." Buffy said.
The three of them just grinned as everyone else started to come in.
The four girls were in Buffy's room later that night.
"So he came." Anya stated.
"Yep." Both Buffy and Willow said together.
"You're sure it has nothing to do with a big evil…thing?" Cordelia asked.
"Never came up." Willow said.
"He's your boss, Cordelia. Ask him." Buffy said.
"Oh no he's not. I'm not at his beck and call whenever he wants something. I'm my own woman. On vacation. He has no power over me whatso -"
"Cordelia!" Angel called from downstairs. "I need to talk to
"She's definitely her own woman." Willow said.
"Completely." Anya said.
They all started giggling.
Angel was going to be sleeping on the couch, so Joyce had pulled the shades over the window in the living room. Just to be safe, he was checking to make sure no light would be able to get in when morning came. Cordelia came walking down the stairs.
"Couldn't stay away, huh?" She asked.
"What did you want to talk to me about?"
"I wanted to say thank you."
"For what you said. I spent days sitting there and thinking, and I realized that you were right. I know I'm a little late, but if it wasn't for you, I don't think I would have come at all. Thanks."
"Um…you're welcome." Cordelia was stunned.
"You look better."
"Being around friends helps."
"So I've learned."
"Well, now that you've started to see my side of things, the next task is to get you into brighter colors. How do you feel about teal?"
"Just seeing how many buttons I could push. I'm done. So, would it be too much to hope that the office will be a brood-free environment from now on?"
"For a little while at least."
"I'll take it." She smiled.
"Good night, Cordelia."
Buffy and Willow were planning the final day of their holiday, while everyone was awaiting them downstairs.
"Gifts, cooking, cooking, cooking, dinner, last candle, passing out from exhaustion. I get it all?" Buffy said.
"I think that covers it." Willow confirmed with an affirmative nod.
"Good." She kissed Willow, and then took a deep breath. "Shall we?"
They went downstairs, where everyone was talking amongst themselves. Joyce was talking with Giles, Cordelia, Anya, and Xander were conversing, and Angel was standing in the corner keeping an eye on an unrestrained Spike.
"We ready?" Buffy asked.
"Are you?" Xander shot back, which caused Buffy and Willow to blush.
They all gathered around the tree, and each picked up the presents they had chosen the previous night.
Joyce got Angel's.
Angel got Willow's.
Xander got Giles'.
By a bizarre coincidence, Giles got Xander's.
Willow got Cordelia's.
Cordelia got Buffy's.
Buffy got Anya's.
Anya got Joyce's.
Xander, having the biggest gift of all, opened his fastest. He just stared at his new…encyclopedia set. "Thanks…Giles."
"That might actually come in handy for you." Giles hid the sarcastic edge to his voice very well, as he opened his gift. It was a video. "Animal House?"
"The ultimate portrayal of American college life. Plus, a drunk Belushi doing 'Louie, Louie'. If you can't go to college, this is the next best thing."
"Thank you." He got the feeling Xander had bought this for himself, but he let it drop.
Buffy opened Anya's next. Opening the rectangular box, she pulled out a gold heart necklace/locket. "It's beautiful. Is it -"
"Real gold?" Anya asked. "Yeah. You pick up some nice things being around as long as I have. You can put a picture inside the heart…"
Buffy and Willow stared at Anya, and then looked in Joyce's direction. Anya smiled sheepishly.
"So who's next?" Willow asked hurriedly.
"I'll go." Angel said, carefully unwrapping the gift. He looked at the book's title and grinned. "Chicken Soup for the Soul. Thank you, Willow."
Willow smiled, and proceeded to open hers. Inside the envelope, was a gift certificate for a makeover at a salon in LA.
"We'll go sometime next week." Cordelia said.
"Are you trying to tell me I need a makeover?"
"I would never! It was just an offer."
"I'd be glad to." Cordelia smiled in relief. "But what if Giles or Xander got this? Or Angel?"
Cordelia looked at the three men, scrutinizing them. "Anyone can get a makeover. I guess I should open mine." She did. It was a plush reindeer with a Santa hat and a bell. "Aw, it's cute, Buffy." She said hugging it to her chest. "Thanks."
"Your welcome, Cordy. Stuffed animals are my weakness."
"They're any girl's weakness."
"She's right." Willow said.
Anya opened her gift. Inside the small box was a miniature replica of a gothic English castle. Right down to the tiny gargoyles. "Wow. Mrs. Summers, where'd you get this?"
"Gallery's gift shop. They have some wonderful things in there. Corresponds with different time periods and art styles."
"This is amazing. Thank you."
"Your welcome. Well, I guess I'm the only one left." Joyce opened her gift. It was a very old looking copy of A Christmas Carol. She opened the cover, and on the inside was Charles Dickens' signature. "This must be rare."
"It's the only one in the world." Angel said.
"I can't accept this. It wouldn't be right."
"It's just another book to me."
"I don't think 'thank you' are the right words to use."
"Can't believe I don't get a gift. I've been mortal enemies with all of you for three years. Doesn't that count for anything?" Spike said.
"You know what, Spike? You're absolutely right." Buffy said. "Tell you what. We'll take Polaroids of all the gifts, and that way you can look at the things you didn't get whenever you want."
"I need a smoke."
"Not in this house." Joyce said.
"You could go outside." Buffy said.
"Actually…" Angel said.
"Oh that's right. The sun thing."
"And a bloody Merry Christmas to you too."
The next hours that followed were hectic to say the least. Trying to get everything prepared for dinner and all. Buffy, Willow, and Angel were in the kitchen, Joyce had gone out to get rolls, and Cordelia and Anya were trying to keep Xander from the kitchen. Giles was actually watching Animal House.
Spike walked in.
"Make yourself useful, and check on the chicken." Buffy said to him.
"What's in it for me?"
"The blood will drain out when it's done. You can drink that."
"How's the cranberry sauce coming?" Willow asked Angel as Spike went over to the oven.
"Good. I think."
Buffy stopped the mixer on the mashed potatoes, and turned to him. "You have to be sure."
"Cordelia, Anya, time to start making the gravy and stuffing! I want to eat at four so hurry!"
"She's awfully neurotic." Anya said walking in.
"Don't you mean slave driver?" Cordelia asked.
"I heard that." Buffy said.
Dinner went off without a hitch. They all sat around the dining room table, eating.
"Who would have thought we'd all be sitting here like this?" Willow asked.
"I sure as hell didn't." Spike muttered.
"Ignoring that, I'd say it's quite an accomplishment." Giles said.
"One of those Christmas miracle things." Cordelia said.
"Miracles don't just happen. You have make your own." Angel said.
"Which they did." Xander added.
"And a well deserved one too." Joyce commented.
"We couldn't have done it without you guys. Cause there would have been no reason to." Buffy said.
"Even me?" Spike asked.
"No." Willow quickly responded.
"I think the real miracle is that we're all still alive. Well, most of us." Anya said.
"I think we should toast." Buffy said.
"To what?" Xander asked.
"Friends and family. Isn't that what this is all about, anyway?"
They did, well, except for Spike. He didn't want to admit it, but he really envied everyone at the table. The reason Buffy always beat him was not because she was necessarily better or stronger than he was; it was because she had reasons to. Whereas every other Slayer he had come up against, didn't. It was unfair.
And his supposedly 'tortured' sire was more welcome than he was. And Angel had killed. But souled, Angel was so good, it was sickening. As envious as he was, he wasn't going to turn good. Well that was impossible, but he had lost the desire to kill Buffy and her friends. Because he had finally figured out that was impossible.
They finished eating in content silence.
Buffy and Willow were getting ready to light the final candle. Everyone else except Angel and Spike had gone caroling. Angel and Spike were just…out. They had always lit the candles alone, and they wanted to keep it that way.
So, Buffy lit it as Willow said the final blessing. After it was done, they both separated to go get each other's gifts. They came back a few seconds later, gifts in hand. They exchanged, and Willow opened hers up first.
Buffy gave Willow a book. An album to be more specific. Filled with pictures of them, from all the years they'd known each other. Notes they'd passed back and forth in classes, drawings of stakes and Wiccan symbols, and different dates of things that had happened. A scrapbook really, of their friendship, and extra pages, for the future.
"I wasn't sure what to get you so…"
"Buffy…this is…" She looked at Buffy with tears in her eyes. "I love it. Hang on."
Willow rushed out of the room, and then came back with a black magic marker. She wrote on the first empty page. 'THE 1ST CHANUKMAS, 1999.' Below that, she drew a Star of David with a Santa hat on top.
"There. And once we get the pictures developed…"
"Can I open mine?" Buffy asked.
"Oh, yeah." Willow grinned.
Buffy did, and found a collar inside a box. "You didn't."
Angel came in, carrying a Labrador puppy. He let it down, and it ran into Buffy's arms.
"He's so cute! Where'd you keep him?"
"Giles' house." Willow said.
"He's not going to be thrilled when he sees the mess it made." Angel said.
"Smoking. A cigarette."
"Do you like him? It's not as -"
"Stop right there. I love him, Will." They hugged. "What's his name gonna be? How about Slacker?"
"You know, combing Slayer and Hacker? Slacker."
They watched as the dog climbed up on the sofa, and flopped into a laying position facing the TV. "Sounds about right, actually."
They laughed, and faced each other. Angel had quietly left the room.
"Merry Chanukmas, Will."
"Merry Chanukmas, Buffy."
They started to kiss, and the front door opened. They didn't hear or didn't want to hear, because they kept kissing. Joyce, who was over by the door, cleared her throat. Buffy and Willow looked up. And almost comically, so did Slacker.
"Hi, Mrs. Summers." Willow said quickly.
"So…how'd caroling go?"