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Thread: A Little Buffy Christmas Tale: 3 Parts

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    Default A Little Buffy Christmas Tale: 3 Parts

    Fic: Christmas Hunt (Written for the Christmas Fic Exchange on Tumblr)
    Character: Buffy
    Setting: S6. Between Wrecked and Gone.
    Rating: PG
    Summary: Suffering from a serious case of Christmas Blues, Buffy finds her holiday spirit in the folds of someone else's past.








    Part 1







    Picking out a tree and decorating it with lights and ornaments. Baking gingerbread houses and men. Hanging stockings on the fireplace. Snuggling up to watch classic Christmas movies. Kissing under the mistletoe. Time with family and friends.

    Bah, humbug.

    She could have escaped it all this year. And the other years to come.

    She’d been dead. Buried. Done. At peace and far away from it all.

    Then her friends decided to play God and here she was; leaning against the fridge in her kitchen and pretending to care.

    Fuss was made in her house. A whole lot of fuss, but so little spirit. Other than an eager Anya preparing this and arranging that, taking up the whole responsibility of organizing the best Christmas Eve ever, no one was feeling the whole Christmas vibe.

    It was her first Christmas after her mother’s death; a legitimate reason not to feel so festive-y. Her mom wasn’t the only one missing; Giles wasn’t here and neither was Tara – much to Dawn’s dismay. They weren’t really sure if they should invite her after the break up with Willow, but Dawn had done it anyway. Turned out, Tara had friends outside of their tight little circle and she was spending Christmas with a loving family in a cozy house a few blocks away.

    “Next Christmas will be at our apartment,” Anya piped up, giving Xander a nudge. “Our first Christmas as husband and wife. I’ll overthink everything and you’ll be full of generous yet unhelpful suggestions and after all my hardship, your mother will still criticize my cooking. I can hardly wait!”

    Xander’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. He didn’t even crack an awkward joke, which was a clear sign of Xander damage. But he’d always been a little funny about Christmas – and every holiday event that required a family gathering.

    Then there was Willow and her tired, old “Jewish excuse”, which wasn’t an issue in the past two years. She wasn’t fooling anyone. Everybody knew she locked herself in her room to avoid the car accident causality that was Dawn’s broken arm. Combine the guilt with going cold turkey on magic, and Hanukkah spirit wouldn’t come a-knocking.

    “Xander, get me some butter from the fridge!”

    Buffy stepped aside to allow him to open the fridge. The grim expression on his face contrasted his fiancée’s merry grin.

    “God, I hate this time of year,” he muttered. “I can only remember two or three Christmas Eves I enjoyed.”

    “You might wanna turn this frown upside down,” Buffy advised. When he looked at her in confusion, she nodded her chin at Anya rocking a reindeer apron, humming and rubbing the inside of the turkey’s cavity with salt.

    “I just… don’t know.” He glanced at the stairs. “I keep thinking about Will.”

    “We’re trying to figure out what to do.” Buffy thought about doing a magic clearance, getting rid of everything that Willow could use to conjure the tiniest of spells. She’d postponed it until the end of New Years – no need to make the holidays dingier than they already were – and hoped that Willow’s enormous sense of guilt would keep her out of trouble until then.

    “I didn’t notice,” his softly spoken words dragged her thoughts back to the present conversation. “I didn’t help. I wasn’t there for her.” He snapped the fridge open in anger and searched for the butter with an intense glare.

    “Xander, we all didn’t…” she tried to find something comforting to say, but it felt like too much of an effort.

    “She didn’t even tell me.” His eyes reflected hurt and loss. “This is big and she didn’t...” He shook his head in sorrow. “Just like she didn’t tell me about Tara,” said in a hushed, painful voice as he tried not to squish the stick of butter in his hand.

    Buffy assumed he was talking about the break up until she realized he wasn’t. “That was a long time ago, Xand,” she said gently. “It was new and scary. She obviously needed - ”

    “She told you.” His tone was calm, but there was that recognizable look in his eyes: jealousy, betrayal, sadness. “I know we’re not…we used to be so close, Buffy. She used to tell me everything.”

    Not everything, she bit back, thinking of all the confidences she and Willow used to share. Emphasis on used to.

    “I don’t expect her to tell me about the smaller stuff, but at least, I wish I was important enough for the big ones, you know.”

    The thickening silence that followed lingered 'til she realized she’d forgotten the burden of offering a reassuring response. There were already plenty of woes going on in the house. She didn’t need Xander’s to put her down even more. She, herself, was at the pit of the well of misery swimming - make that drowning - in her own.

    “Thank you, honey.” An aggravated Anya snatched the butter from Xander’s hand and shot Buffy an accusing stare. “What’s wrong with you two? You should be as happy as those kids in that sparkling red Coca-Cola trucks commercial. Christmas is a chance to feel like a kid again.”

    Buffy held back a sarcastic remark - she was doing a lot of that, lately. Seriously? She hadn’t felt like a kid since that fateful day Merrick told her she was the Slayer.

    Anya, on the other hand, didn’t restrain her scoff. “C’mon, Dawnie, you’re the only one who knows the true meaning of Christmas.”

    “Family,” Dawn said sadly, barely moving the big spoon in her hand to mix the salad.

    “Food,” Anya corrected, grabbing the salad bowl and mixing the ingredients into perfection. “I know how to put a little Christmas cheer in your sad pathetic souls.”

    Buffy winced when Anya started singing Deck the Halls in the highest-pitched voice she had ever heard. And she’d thought Cordy’s caterwauling in the talent show was bad? Huh. Live and learn. Anya beamed at Dawn, willing her to join in, and her poor sister only managed a pitiful “fla la la la”.

    “Slip out from the backdoor,” Xander whispered to Buffy. “I’m marrying her. But you’re not.” He sang along supporting a fake grin when Anya looked his way.

    Buffy smiled appreciatively and followed his advice.

    Fresh air. At last. The back porch never looked more appealing. She sank on the back step – her favorite pondering spot – and stared at the barren, undecorated yard. The light breeze ruffled the hairs that strayed from her loose ponytail. She brushed them back behind her ears and heaved sigh that didn’t relieve an ounce of the tension in her soul.

    A marching band chose this moment to walk the street in front of her house, shoving their happy cheer down her lump-filled throat. If only Christmas could be over now.

    “No!” Willow’s yell plummeted into her ears, panicked and guilty. Before she knew it, Buffy found herself showered with sparkling charms.

    “What the -? Will!” Buffy sprang to her feet, dusting off the sparkles, and then looked up at the window. Willow wasn’t there. The marching band had disappeared as well.

    “Willow?”

    The sudden foreign sound of laughter that drifted through the kitchen door caught her off guard. She peered inside and her mouth hung open at the sight of a group of strangers in her kitchen singing Christmas carols and setting up the dinner table. Had Anya invited a bunch of people over without telling her? Who did that? And since when did Anya know any people?

    With a determined scowl, Buffy stalked into the kitchen through the backdoor. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.

    The singing stopped as a large family - what Buffy presumed was a family anyhow, from freckle-faced little girl to white-haired grandmother - regarded her strangely. Being up close, she noticed how weird her kitchen looked, in the sense that it didn’t look like her kitchen at all. The fridge was avocado green and the plates on the counter had pink flowers on them. And, the knickknacks on the kitchen window sill…were those Hummel figurines? Oh god.

    “Who’s this?” Buffy heard the little girl with pigtails’ wary whisper in her older sister’s ear.

    “A crazy homeless person,” Big Sis whispered back, giving Buffy the stink-eye.

    “Excuse me?” Buffy glanced down at her own outfit (trendy but in a tasteful and classic way, thank you very much) and shot a glance at the other girl’s denim ensemble. Seriously, that outfit belonged the Bad Fashion Museum. “Just a word to the wise - the shoulder pads? Way past their expiration date, and not a good look on anyone off the football field.”

    She flinched when an elderly woman stood before her with a wary smile. “Do you want to join us, dear?” She was a few years older than…than her mom. Than her mom would ever be.

    “I want….” I want you people to get out of my house.

    The woman laid a hand on Buffy’s arm, gently, as though Buffy might break on impact. “I want…” Wrinkles lightly wreathed her kind eyes, and grey hairs threaded through brown ones. Her mom used to stand before the bathroom mirror and fuss about the crows’ feet and grey hairs that were starting to show. That she’d never worry over again.

    “What is it, dear?” the woman encouraged.

    “Uh, Mom, can I talk to you?” A young man with two glasses of eggnog in hand stared nervously at the intruder.

    Buffy shook her head, her gaze traveling from one unfamiliar face to another. “I’m sorry. I… gotta go.” She rushed outside the house, jumped over a skateboard abandoned on the backyard, and stopped running only when she was safely away from the strange people inhabiting her house.

    No, she corrected herself mentally, not her house, not now, and maybe not ever again unless Willow figured out how to undo what she’d done. Great. That was exactly what she needed, for her home to not be hers. Literally. She pursed her lips and glared up at the sky. So much for Willow quitting cold turkey. She should have known it would only lead to a relapse.

    What should she do now? Where should she go? More importantly, where - or when - the hell was she? She thought she’d seen a shrimp platter in the kitchen a moment ago, so not the World Without Shrimp. One possibility down, umpteen million others to go.

    She aimlessly strolled down the slightly altered Sunnydale streets. There were different swing sets in the park. Mr. Kaltenbach was still alive and freaking out the kids who passed his house. Although nothing could be freakier than that group of teenage boys pulling a Will Smith with their multi-colored vests and backward caps.

    Ok, so definitely back in time, at least. Her theory was confirmed by the mother and daughter across the street with the same frizzy perms and similar ugly retro outfits to Big Sis, linebacker shoulder pads and all. How was she supposed to get back to her own time? Assuming Willow figured out how to undo her spell… assuming Willow wanted to undo her own spell.

    Maybe sending her away was the whole point. Her friends had torn her out of heaven and then discovered they didn’t like what they got - a defective model, a pretender wearing Buffy’s skin. Could she blame them? They’d probably be better off without her. Anya could rule the roost and get her Christmas on, full stop, and Dawnie…wouldn’t look at her any more with that mixture of sadness and resentment. Buffy was failing her sister and worse, failing her promise to Mom. She knew it but she didn’t know what to do about it. And maybe now she’d never get the chance to make things right.

    Thank you, Willow, for making a bleak Christmas even bleaker.

    “Speak of the Devil,” she muttered, eyeing a certain little redheaded girl running around the front yard of a house Buffy hadn’t visited in a while. A familiar little boy was chasing after her shooting sponge bullets and laughing hysterically. So happy and innocent with no worries, no guilt, not a single hint of gloom.

    Buffy didn’t remember the Harris residence being this tiny. It looked deserted; despite every light in every room being on and the sound of a blaring TV there was no sign of life inside.

    The girl tackled the boy, trying to snatch the toy gun from his hands, and they tumbled backwards on the grass. Their laughter was so loud it would attract unwanted attention from the pale and bumpy.

    Did Willow send her back to look after her unsupervised younger self? With a curse directed at a very shining star, Buffy started toward the giggling two, her arms crossed in resolve. “Didn’t your mommy tell you not to play outside at night?”

    They bolted upward on their feet, the boy pushing the frightened girl behind him and pointing his toy gun at Buffy. It'd would’ve been endearing if she didn’t feel so resentful and more than a little freaked out.

    “Who are you?” he demanded.

    “If you don’t go inside, I’m telling your mom.”

    “Ha, my parents are spending Christmas at Cousin Carol’s.”

    “Xander, you don’t tell that to strangers,” the girl hissed in his ear.

    Buffy lifted an eyebrow. “Listen to her. She’s smart.”

    Little Willow perked up at the compliment.

    Little Xander wasn’t amused, though. “I asked you a question; who are you?”

    She glanced at the neighbor’s house when she heard a burst of laughter and music coming from inside, then looked at the Harris’ empty house in front of her. She was saddled with two lonely children on Christmas Eve. All right, Will, have it your way.

    “I’m the babysitter,” she said with a forced smile. “Your parents hired me to look after you tonight.”

    “Nice try,” he sneered with narrowed eyes. “They think I’m sleeping at her house.” A nod at Willow. She waved.

    “Which you’re not,” Buffy pointed out. “So, I’m hiring myself.”

    “You can’t do that,” Xander responded. “Besides, we don’t need babysitters.”

    “Oh really?” Buffy drawled. “And how old are you?”

    The pale and bumpy chose this moment to show his ugly face. Xander and Willow jumped back so fast they tripped over their own feet and fell on the grass. And wasn’t this the best time not to have a handy stake on her?

    So she began her usual fighting routine of kicking and spinning and punching until she caught a glimpse of something useful. Except that there were no quips or puns to disarm her opponent or at least make things interesting; she didn’t have the heart or the energy to bother with chitchat. Until -

    “You’re strong, for such a little thing,” Pale and Bumpy hissed. “Real strong. And pretty. Just my type of gal.”

    “What? Ew. And, no.”

    A roundhouse kick sent the vampire stumbling backwards and landing on the ground next to Xander and Willow. Needless to say, neither of them took it very well. Buffy had to pat her stinging ears after a load of deafening screams.

    And then she saw it: a sapling tree peeking in all its pointy glory from the left side of the Harris house. Buffy didn’t remember a tree in that spot when she’d visited Xander’s house before but, oh, this was the past. Whatever. The tree was a spindly thing with more bend than snap but it was wood so still useful.

    She grabbed it to break off a branch…and the entire thing came out of the dirt, roots and all.

    “Oops”.

    “Hey, my mom just planted that tree! You’re gonna be in trouble!” Xander sing-songed.

    “Who are you pretending to be, little girl, the Slayer? I don’t think so.” Pale and Bumpy chortled. “You’re gonna give me a sliver? Oooh, I’m scared!”

    Buffy turned her attention from the dirt-covered rootball to the polyester-clad vamp. “You’re laughing at me? You’re wearing clashing patterns and bell-bottoms and You. Are. Laughing. At. Me?”

    She grabbed the vamp and tossed him over her back onto the driveway, out of view of Xander and Willow, then pinned him to the ground. He squirmed and flailed beneath her. “Who the hell are you?”

    “I’m - the Fashion Police. And you’re busted, dumbass.”

    After she’d gotten the job done, she stuck the tree back in the ground and patted the soil over the roots. It sagged pathetically. Sorry about your tree, Mrs Harris but at least I saved your son, so it’s all good, right?

    The boy in question was still sitting on the ground, huddled with Willow and eyeing Buffy warily. She dusted her hands off and arched a knowing eyebrow at him. “You were saying about not needing a babysitter?”

    “What… what was that?” he stuttered through chattering teeth.

    “Just a guy who mistook Christmas for Halloween.”

    “Where is he now?” Willow asked, glancing at the side of the house where Buffy and the vampire had disappeared into.

    “He gave a heartfelt apology and I sent him on his merry way.”

    Willow frowned. “But…”

    “So cool.” Xander was apparently over being scared. He jumped to his feet and looked Buffy over, his eyes huge with awe and admiration. “You’re so strong!”

    “That I am.” Clearly she had passed the babysitter trial.

    “Can you do it again? I have this stupid white teddy bear you can pummel to shreds of cotton balls!”

    Willow rose to pinch his ear. “Hey, I gave you that teddy bear.”

    A chuckle escaped Buffy’s throat as an old faded memory of her and Dawn stirred in her mind. “Let’s just go inside.”

    They started toward the house. “What’s your name?” Willow asked.

    “Anne.” Better not disrupt the space time continuum. Whatever she was going to do in the past, it would definitely affect the future. Not that she had any proof of this theory but that was what they said in Star Trek and it sounded sensible enough to her. Xander and Willow shouldn’t meet her until 1997, and she wanted them to keep their innocence for as long as possible. “Hey, um, you guys, just how old are you, really?”



    ~*~*~*~
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

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    Default





    Part 2






    With years of babysitting experience under her belt, Buffy knew the job didn’t involve just watching over the kids. Getting fed was high on the list. Except usually, the parents of those kids would’ve had the curtesy to prepare something in advance or leave instructions or something. Not that she blamed Mrs. Harris who believed her son was safely being taken care of at the Rosenbergs’ who clearly believed their daughter was in good hands under adult supervision. The perks of being a kid in Sunnydale; parents always suffer from chronic denial syndrome.

    Fiddling in the Harris kitchen took a whole two minutes. There was nothing to cook in there. Just a few boxes of cookies and canned foods.

    “There’s a surprise,” she muttered, finding a stack of beer cans in the fridge and not a single juice box. At least there were four bottles of water. Never mind that half full one.

    Willow trotted into the kitchen. “Anne, hurry up! Charlie Brown is on!”

    Still deciding between a box of chicken rice soup and a packet of instant noodles – “What?”

    Willow grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the kitchen. And that led to Buffy witnessing for the very first time Xander’s infamous snoopy dance and it did live up to the hype.

    Dawn used to love this show. They’d lie down in front of the TV in their snuggly snowman pajamas and hum along Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Her mother would rush them to bed afterwards, so that her father, already dressed in Santa costume and hiding in the kitchen, would slip in and add more presents under their decorated tree. Mom always left their shared bedroom door slightly opened so that they’d hear Santa ‘scrubbing’ down the chimney. Dad believed they wouldn’t tell the difference between a fat grown man squeezing himself down the flue and a chimney brush. They’d pad out of their room and sneak a peek at the jolliest man alive stuffing their stockings with things they’d nagged their parents about all year.

    Smiling at the memory, Buffy was struck by how bare and plain the Harris’s living room was. Xander’s parents didn’t bother at all. Not even an aluminum tree. She stared pensively at the grinning faces watching TV and wondered if they felt left out with every kid around them living in a house looking like an amusement park and receiving tons of presents and eating a delicious home cooked meal.

    When final credits rolled on the screen, Willow leaned over, fetched the remote from under the couch and snapped the TV shut. “Let’s order from the Chinese place,” she said to Xander.

    “You’ll find their number on the fridge, I’ll go get the money.”

    Buffy looked between the two. “The Chinese place?”

    “Don’t worry. They open on Christmas Eve,” Willow reassured, skipping toward the kitchen.

    Buffy sat alone in the un-Christmas-y living room until she heard some carolists singing outside. She smiled at the window enjoying another memory of her and Dawn as kids, rushing out of the door and singing along with them. Her mouth parted, about to hum Jingle Bells when an aggravated Willow paced into the living room and snapped the curtains shut. “God, how annoying!”

    Buffy blinked, watching the younger version of her friend plopping down on the couch next to the phone with a small piece of paper. “What do you want me to get you, Anne?”

    Growing up, Buffy knew a kid in her class who didn’t celebrate Christmas. In her naïvety, she believed that kid’s parents were cruel monsters for refusing to get a Christmas tree or decorate their house.

    “Anne?” Willow glanced at her. “What do you want me to get you?”

    “Eggrolls,” Buffy blurted out.

    Willow nodded.

    It felt weird, treating Christmas like every other day. She remembered the effort her mother put every year to make it unforgettable. One game in particular was a holiday favorite, her mother’s remarkable Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Each year, she’d do it differently and that what made it so exciting. Buffy liked the riddle clues the most; Dawn pretended to like them – copying Buffy every chance she got – even though she wasn’t old enough to read well.

    “Found the stash,” Xander announced, unfolding an envelope and showing them the money inside.

    “Where did your mom hide it this time?” Willow asked, dialing the number of the restaurant.

    “Same place,” he answered. “You can’t be creative with all that booze in your system.”

    Her two best friends never really experienced a fun Christmas childhood, have they? The aroma of the Christmas cookies her mother used to make. The butterflies in her tummy when helping her dad pick out a tree. Making a huge deal over having to write Dawn’s letter to Santa. Making a huger deal over going to share the joy of Christmas – more specifically their dinner – with the Millers. “Christmas is about giving,” Mom would say.

    The back of her eyes stung just thinking about it all.

    “It’s ringing but nobody is answering,” Willow grumbled into the phone.

    She decided to follow her mother’s example and seized the phone from Willow’s hand. She hung it up and smiled at a dumbfounded Willow. “Too early for food. How about we go on a Christmas Hunt instead?”

    “We’re too old to play silly games,” said a haughty Willow as if she wasn’t running around in the front yard an hour ago. “We wanna order Chinese, right, Xander?”

    Xander’s eyes darted between them, obviously leaning toward the scavenger hunt idea but not wanting to pick a stranger’s side over Willow’s.

    “It’s really fun. There are clues and everything.”

    Xander was immediately sold. “Will there be treasure in the end?”

    “Xander,” Willow gasped, jumping up to her feet and glaring right into Xander’s eyes.

    “I wanna play,” he whined, inching closer to Buffy’s side.

    “Why don’t you wanna play, Will?” Buffy asked, already knowing the answer.

    Willow twisted her lips in displeasure. “I’m Jewish. I’m not supposed to have fun on Christmas.”

    She was just short enough that Buffy had to crouch to meet her eyes. “We can play something else instead.”

    “But I wanna play this game,” Xander objected.

    “It’s okay.” Willow gave a halfhearted shrug. “I’m only doing it for Xander.” She cast her clueless friend a smile Buffy recognized too well but hadn’t seen in years.

    “So, how do you play it?” Xander tossed the envelope of money on the couch and tried not to bounce.

    “As you can see, the living room looks like it’s the middle of March,” Buffy explained. “We have to Christmas it up.”

    “How do we do that? The only Christmas shopping I did was a present for Willow.” Xander’s face drooped like he singlehandedly pulled a Grinch on Christmas.

    “Bet we can find lots clues in the basement.” She gave a comforting grin with a bonus shoulder squeeze.

    “Aren’t basements dark and scary?” Willow said uncertainly.

    “You think there’ll be monsters that need their asses kicked in there?” Xander grinned cheekily.

    “Let’s hope.” Buffy winked.

    Willow’s trembling “Let’s not hope” was lost in the midst of Xander’s joyful holler. They followed his chipper bouncing to basement door.

    It was dark, much to poor Willow’s dismay. Buffy found the light switch and… that was not what she expected. The place was a big dump filled with spider nets and filthy old boxes and none of the weird, unique stuff she remembered. Weirdest part was that Xander did actually make an effort to turn the place into, well, a less dump-y version of what it was now.

    “Oh, mooooonsters,” Xander called out for the big bads of the basement of doom. He skipped down the stairs and disappeared behind the uneven wall of dusty boxes.

    Willow glued herself to Buffy. “Xander, quit it!”

    “Anne!” His voice rose from downstairs. “Look at this couch. It can unfold into a bed!”

    “Way cool.” Buffy sloped after him, half carrying a struggling Willow who clung to her like a koala to a tree.

    They found Xander bouncing on the couch. He pulled his knees up while mid-air and landed butt first on the cushions. “So, what are we looking for exactly?” He surveyed the mess around him expectantly.

    “Christmas clues. Anything that screams Christmas.”

    “Oh, you mean like this!” Xander climbed on top of the washing machine and grabbed something from behind the fabric softener container. He hopped down and offered Buffy a snow globe.

    She shook it and smiled at the snowstorm she caused. Tiny San Francisco inside didn’t appreciate it, though.

    “Grandma gave it to me last year,” Xander explained.

    She grinned down at him. “Our first clue: snow.”

    “It never snows in Sunnydale,” Willow mumbled. “I don’t think we should count it.”

    Xander glared at her. “I don’t see you finding any clues.”

    “Actually,” Willow said with a sly smile, walking over to the shelves near the staircase and picked up a bag of jelly sweets. “Santa’s belly being described like a bowl full of jelly.”

    “What a bowl full of crap!” Xander retorted.

    “Xander,” Buffy chided.

    “She started mocking my clue!”

    “He can’t think outside the box!”

    Oh, boy. Little Xander and Willow were fighting over the attention of the babysitter. She had a younger sister, she knew how sibling rivalry worked. First with the verbal insults and then…

    “Yes, I can!” Xander gave Willow an aggressive push.

    “No, you can’t!” Willow shoved him back.

    “Um, guys?” Buffy knew she had to stop this before it got uglier. Like Xander pushing Willow so hard she fell back and knocked over the wall of boxes.

    “Now look at what you did.” Buffy scowled at a bashful Xander. “Willow, are you okay?”

    The answer she received was a horrified scream.

    Buffy leapt to the rescue. She jumped over the pile of boxes and knelt next to a wide eyed Willow who was testing her ability to disappear into the wall. Buffy followed Willow’s line of sight and grimaced at the sight of several enthusiastic cockroaches advancing from underneath the mass of boxes.

    “It’s the ultimate attack of the roaches!” Xander exclaimed, taking up a fighting stance. “Autobots, transform and rollout!” Mimicking the sound of a motorbike, he ran a straight line over those damn pests, spinning around to strike a ninja pose, and then wheeling back to squash the ones he missed.

    A stray evil cockroach crawled toward her and Willow – this time Buffy was sure Willow’s shriek tore a hole in her eardrum. To save what was left of her hearing sense, Buffy pulled Willow’s sneaker off her foot and swatted the vile little thing.

    “Wha… why?” Willow stared between her sneaker and Buffy, her chin quivered in betrayal.

    “These boots were expensive.” They weren’t. But given her current state of broke-ness, she’d learned the value of keeping her stuff as clean and neat as the day she bought them.

    “I kicked some insect butt!” Xander danced the dance of victory after he slayed the last roach. He got into Willow’s face and wiggled his eyebrows. “I saved your life, chicken!”

    Willow stuck out her tongue. She noticed something behind Xander and headed toward one of the opened boxes, neglecting her ‘damaged’ sneaker. She pulled out a red and silver tinsel garland and waved it at them. “Christmas decorations.”

    Buffy gave her a thumbs up.

    And the Christmas Hunt continued with each one searching through the contents of one box after another. This one contained nothing but old boy clothes, and none of them was an embarrassing grandma-knitted Christmas sweater.

    “I found a glue,” Xander announced, handing it to her. “We may need it.”

    Buffy put it aside and started digging into another box. She held out a white mask and showed it to Willow.

    “Creepy.” She shuddered, taking the mask and tossing it aside.

    “More decorations,” Buffy declared happily, bringing out a couple of candles. She dug in her other hand and found a red foam ball. “Would this go under ‘decoration’?”

    An invisible light bulb switched on above Willow’s head. She grabbed the foam ball and used the glue to stick it on the white mask. Slipping it on, she walked over toward Xander who was distracted by the contents of his box.

    She stood behind him and poked his shoulder.

    Xander’s shriek put a hole in Buffy’s other eardrum and was followed by him literally hiding behind her skirt.

    His fingers gripped hard at the fabric when Willow released a loud and very satisfied laugh. She took off the mask and wiggled her eyebrows in imitation of Xander earlier. “Who’s the chicken now, clown-a-phobic?”

    And the quarreling was on again. Buffy escaped by burying her head in the box of old clothes.


    ~*~*~*~
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

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    Part 3









    Buffy took a taste of her eggroll and closed her eyes to take in greasy pleasure. The bits of vegetables stuffed in it dripped on the white plastic chair she occupied. She picked them up and glared at Willow who leaned so far back on her chair that it only stood on two legs. Willow straightened herself with her trademark guilty pout.

    The front porch where they enjoyed their Christmas Eve dinner was now decorated with every long and short piece of tinsel garland in wildly different colors and every mismatched candle they were able to find.

    “I still think my tree looks the best,” Xander commented through a mouthful of dumplings. He was lying on the back step of the stairs and gazing up at the three Picasso-esque canvases taped to the wooden pillar.

    Since they couldn’t get a real tree, they had to sketch their own on floral stationary papers they found in the basement. Xander had fetched his coloring pencils from his school backpack so they could color their masterpieces.

    A Christmas carol group marched by with their little bells and Santa hats, spreading holidays cheer. Buffy and her little friends happily joined in, earning wide grins and several bell jingling for their trouble.

    After they walked away, Buffy gazed down at her empty plate then turned to Willow. “So, Will, when will your mom come to get you?”

    Willow was taken aback by the question. She grabbed her empty juice box and sucked on the straw, making loud spitting noise.

    Buffy stared at her for several seconds. “Well?”

    A nervous fiddling with her chopsticks. “Shedoesn’tknowI’mhere.”

    “Come again?”

    “She doesn’t know she’s here,” Xander provided helpfully.

    Willow thanked him by kicking that last dumpling off his hands.

    “She what?” Buffy exclaimed. “Willow, she must be worried sick! We gotta call her.”

    Willow’s eyes bulged out of their sockets with unquestionable fear. “No! Dad will freak out if he knows I celebrated Christmas.”

    “Not as much as he’ll freak out if he walks in your room and doesn’t find you there,” Buffy pointed out.

    “How about we sneak her back in?” Xander proposed. “Nobody has to know. Plus, fun.”

    “Oh, I’m with Xander. That sounds less risky.”

    Buffy looked between Xander’s eager face for a new adventure and Willow’s ‘poor me please don’t get me grounded’ pout. She relented with a defeated sigh. “Fine. Have it your way.”

    “Before we go,” Willow flapped her arms in excitement. “Xander?”

    He scurried inside the house and came back with something wrapped in a hacked old wrapping paper.

    That’s the best you could do.” Willow wrinkled her nose. Apparently Xander’s rushed job at giftwrapping didn’t satisfy the perfectionist in her.

    “It’s a work of art,” he defended, “Even made a card and everything.”

    Buffy stared at the present handed to her, completely speechless at the unexpected gesture. “When did you…?”

    He beamed. “When I said I needed to go to the bathroom.”

    “And I thought you were trying to get away from setting the table.” Buffy accepted her present, finding the uneven edges of the wrapping paper and the brown parcel tape used to stick it together the most endearing thing ever. She read the tiny piece of paper – ripped from one of those stationary papers – stuck to the present. ‘Thanks for the best Christmas ever. Xander and Willow,’ was written in the neatest penmanship a kid Xander’s age could manage.

    She looked up at the innocent faces and felt her eyes well up. They were thanking her? The Grumpy Queen?

    “Open it!” Willow persisted, pointing at her present.

    Buffy did and felt a big smile spreading across her face.


    ~*~*~*~




    Christmas carols were sung on the way to Willow’s house. Muted when they got close to it. With Xander on watch duty, Buffy flung Willow over her shoulder and climbed up to her balcony. Willow gave Buffy a kiss and waved goodbye to Xander before she tiptoed into her bedroom.

    Christmas carols weren’t sung on the way back because Xander never stopped yawning. Buffy ended up piggyback carrying him the rest of the way.

    She draped him gently on bed and helped him take off his sneakers. Tucking him all nice and snuggly, she sat next to him on bed, leaning back against the headboard. Until something poked the back of her neck. She looked over her shoulder at the mess of toys and placed the naughty toy plane on the nightstand.

    Xander’s bedroom didn’t look much different than it did when she helped him dress up on Valentine’s Day. She didn’t recognize that outdated Nirvana poster with Chad Channing as their drummer. However, that weird black beetle on the wall next to the typical boy cars poster was as creepy as she remembered.

    “Aren’t you going to your house?” Xander whispered, struggling to keep his eyelids up.

    She brushed an unruly lock of hair off his forehead. “I’ll wait for your parents to come back.”

    “They’re not coming tonight.”

    Buffy stared long and hard at his indifferent face. “They think you’re sleeping at Willow’s.” It still pissed her off. How was this whole mess arranged? Shouldn’t his parents have dropped him off at Willow’s house and spoke to Mrs. Rosenberg about it first? Did they just leave him and Willow alone in the house and expected them head to Willow’s on their own? At night? Dawn was fifteen and Buffy barely left her alone in the house without someone there to look after her let alone allow her to walk alone in the street at night – she did once on Halloween and look how that turned out.

    “I don’t mind being home alone. Really.”

    Home alone? Buffy didn’t even consider the possibility of burglars breaking into the house. Burglars who didn’t need an invite.

    Xander rolled to his side and stared at the object she cradled in her hand. “You like your present?”

    “I do.” Her smile was contagious, but then Xander’s drowsy one was disturbed by a big yawn.

    “Wanna a bed time story?”

    “You know I’m nine, right?” said in the most indignant tone a sleepy voice could achieve. “Don’t you wanna be with your family tonight?”

    Buffy brushed another lock of hair and settled for a warm little smile. Her fingers ran gently through his short dark hair and lolled him to sleep. Feeling heavy-eyed herself, she pulled the covers over her body and lay down next to him, her head bumping his gently. What would a teenage Xander feel about this? She stifled a snicker at the thought and closed her eyes, praying for Xander’s parents to have more sense and come back home sober.



    ~*~*~*~




    “A ****ing florist?”

    Buffy’s eyes snapped open to a ceiling streaked with water stains.

    “What? She outta her mind? Does she think I’m made of money?!” a man’s livid voice bellowed from outside the room.

    “Xander?” Buffy whipped her head to the right and was met with a few boxes lying on the hard, mattress-less bed with her. The wobbly one on top fell on her.

    “You know a bride needs a bouquet! We also need to pay for the flowers...”

    “I’m not paying for the stinking flowers! Already paid for the bar, the band and the ****ing minister! Let the circus geeks pitch in for a change!”

    Xander’s parents. She recognized the muffled fighting match from when she used to visit Xander in the basement. Good thing it didn’t reach the breaking cutlery stage yet.

    Buffy winced, pushing the box off of her, and lifting her aching body up, cracking her stiff neck as she sat up straight. The walls were bare, and Xander’s room was filled with similar dusty old boxes to the ones in the basement. She was back to the future – here’s hope it was her timeline and not the future. She wouldn’t handle seeing Xander and Anya already married and surrounded by little ones of their own. Or worse, Dawn being married with little ones and a respectable fancy job. Happy future aside, she’d already had her serious case of wiggins and she’d like to find things the way she’d left them.

    Stretching her arms up, she realized she was still clutching her present in her hand. How did it travel to the future with her?

    Crash!

    Oh, no, cutlery breaking stage. She must get out of here. The window was a bit stuck with spider nets and dusty mess, but it was no challenge for slayer strength. Out of the window and into the real world – fresh, fresh world with shiny stars and the comforting quiet. No wonder Xander liked to sleep outside on Christmas; that horrible uproar left a familiar awful feeling in the pit of her stomach from when her parents used to fight right after she became a Slayer.

    She breathed in the fresh air and slid the window shut. Boy did it bring back nostalgic memories – though sneaking out of Xander’s single story house took less of an effort.

    People were probably sound asleep judging by the silence. She guessed it was a few hours before dawn as she walked down the empty streets back to her home.

    Not really empty, she thought, trying to make out the figure walking on the opposite side of the pavement. No tingling spidery sense, so it wasn’t a vampire. She was a woman. Slumped shoulders, she trudged with her eyes downcast, not noticing Buffy.

    “Tara?”

    The woman looked up as she stopped her lonely stagger. “Buffy? Out slaying?”

    Buffy shook her head. “It’s a long story.” She crossed the street to meet the other woman. “What are you doing out here this late?”

    An uncomfortable smile curled up Tara’s lips. “J-just heading back to the dorm.”

    Buffy frowned. “Thought you were spending Christmas at a friend’s house. Didn’t that usually involve sleeping in?”

    Tara dropped her gaze, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. “That… was the plan. It was nice o-over there, but… it didn’t…”

    “Too happy?” Buffy said with an understanding nod.

    “Yeah.” Tara let out an embarrassed laugh.

    This year’s Christmas couldn’t live up to last year when Mom was alive, when Giles was around, when Tara and Willow were still together, when Buffy didn’t get a taste of heavenly afterlife only to almost suffocate in her own coffin. Still, the sulking wouldn’t do them any good. There would always be light in the end of a dark, gloomy tunnel.

    “Okay,” Tara said awkwardly. “I better…”

    Buffy took hold of her arm before she stepped away. “Why don’t you come over to my house? I promise we won’t overdo it with the happy.”

    Tara tried for a polite smile, failing miserably as she searched for the most appropriate words to turn the offer down. “I don’t know…”

    “It’ll mean a lot to Dawn if you came.” Tara’s weak spot. Buffy waited for a response before she declared victory.

    A hesitated pause followed by a timid smile. “Okay.”

    Silent night. Holy night. No one talked on the way back home. Poor Tara appeared too nervous she was about to burst. Spending holidays with an ex wasn’t too easy. But it shouldn’t be about Willow, it should be about…

    “Family,” Dawn’s sad little mumble from earlier tonight trickled her mind. They were family, regardless of the lost members, they were still a family and should be together like a family.

    “So, how was living at the dorms again?” Buffy asked. “More specifically the roommate situation.”

    “She’s all right,” Tara said with a smile.

    Buffy nodded. Behold awkward silence. Nice to see you again. Ball in Tara’s court now.

    “How’s Dawn and school?” And she didn’t disappoint.

    “No update. Holidays.”

    Tara nodded.

    Great. Home in sight. A warm smile rose to Buffy’s at the sight of Dawn lodging on the front steps. Her sister let out a cry of relief upon seeing her and ran toward her inviting arms, slipping into her firm embrace.

    “Oh my God, Tara!” Dawn pushed her away and attacked Tara with a bear hug.

    Buffy stared at her suddenly empty arms with a headshake.

    “Buffy, thank God!” Grown up Willow emerged from the front door and rushed toward her, stopped on her tracks, “Tara?” She paused for a second, obviously mentally debating where her priorities lay, then turned big sad guilty eyes at Buffy and hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

    “Great. Now Buffy’s back and Xander is still out there searching for her. When will all of you people be in one place so we can enjoy Christmas?” Anya complained standing by front door, hands on hips, foot a-tapping. “That turkey I cooked isn’t getting any crisper on the outside nor juicier on the inside.”

    Dawn finally pulled herself back from Tara’s embrace, her hands still holding Tara’s hands as if she’d slip away. “You’re really staying?”

    “If it’s okay.” Tara cast a nervous glance at Willow.

    Willow did an “O” face and nodded so hard Buffy thought her head would fall off. “Oh, it’s okay, not that you need permission to be here, not that I have the authority to give permission since it isn’t my house. Also, Jewish here. Not with the celebrating Christmas thing. Which is you know, your thing. Maybe I should make myself scarce.” She directed her nervous babble at Buffy. “Should I, uh, make myself scarce?”

    Tara let out a soft chuckle. “It okay, Willow. I want you to be here.”

    “Me too. I want me to be here too.” Unsure glance at Buffy. “If it’s okay with you, Buff.”

    Before Buffy could reply, Anya showed up out of nowhere, her eyes almost boring a hole in her skull. “See, I’ve hurried and scurried to get everything done through all the moping and laziness and I’m not going to let that go to waste.”

    “Thank you, Anya,” Buffy said sincerely.

    Still in mid-rant mode, Anya was taken aback, “What?”

    “I appreciate you taking care of everything here.” Anya didn’t really fill in Mom’s shoes, but she worked so hard to organize a special night, trying to make everyone happy.

    Anya beamed at her, looking a bit bashful. “You’re welcome.” She took hold of Tara and Dawn’s hands and started dragging them into the house. “Let’s go inside. We can still have last night’s dinner at three A. M. Besides, it’s Christmas. Time for thanks and forgiveness and gift exchanging and turkey eating…”

    Forgiveness, the thought twirled in Buffy’s head as she watched the three disappearing into her house. She turned her attention to a visibly remorseful Willow who looked like she was about to burst any second now.

    “I’m really sorry, Buffy,” she said sadly. “I wanted to go back to simpler times. I was weak and I didn’t think. I’m sorry, sorry, sorry...”

    “I forgive you, Will,” she interrupted Willow’s guilt-riddled babble fest gently.

    “Really?” Willow’s eyes were brimming with unshed tears. “Cause I promise this is my last spell. I’d never ever as much as…”

    “Will,” Buffy interrupted again and pointedly added, “I forgive you.”

    Willow stared at her in confusion. “We’re not talking about tonight’s spell?”

    Buffy shook her head.

    “We’re talking about…” she trailed off then realization seemed to have hit her like a dozen of falling bricks. “That.” She looked thrice more guilty.

    Buffy was surprised when her smile slipped into her lips easily. “I forgive you,” she whispered for the third time.

    Willow’s tears slipped down her cheeks. “Oh, God, Buffy.” Her gaze dropped to her bare feet – something Buffy just noticed. Her friend was too worried about her she forgot to wear shoes. She pulled a sobbing Willow to her chest and hugged as tight as she needed.

    They remained standing there, holding on to one another, until the bark of a car’s horn disturbed the peace.

    “Buff! You’re back!” Xander exclaimed with relief, pulling his car over. He rushed toward them and put his arms around the still hugging two. This time Buffy didn’t feel like suffocating in the arms of her friends. No boiling anger and numb resentment. She felt warmth and loved, like a missing piece of puzzle finally snapping into place.

    They pulled back and looked at one another. “So, the past, huh?” Xander began. “People were still getting down to Thriller and Monopoly was still relevant.”

    Buffy grinned. “It was okay. Besides, got a nice little souvenir.” She shook the San Francisco snow globe and little storm clouds gathered inside the glass dome.

    Xander looked closely at the familiar thing then his mouth dropped. “Oh.” He and Willow had matching wide eyes as they pointed at Buffy. “You’re Anne!”

    “In the flesh.”

    “That’s right.” Willow hit her head with a fist several time. “How did I not see it?”

    “That guy was a vampire,” Xander mumbled as realization sunk in. “We had a Slayer for a babysitter and we just realized it.”

    “You were suffering from Sunnydale’s infamous ‘ignorance is bliss’ disorder,” Buffy said.

    “Yeah, but we recovered by tenth grade,” Xander said. His eyes were still on the globe. “God, I never thought I’d see it again. Grandma gave it to me. It was her last Christmas before she passed away. Last endurable Christmas with the Harris clan.”

    Buffy took hold of his hand and placed the globe in it, sensing that he needed it more than she did. His smile was the first genuine one since last night.

    Christmas was the spirit of giving without a thought of getting, something her mother used to say whenever Buffy made a stink about the Millers. Buffy never realized how great it felt to put a smile on a loved one’s face through the simplest of gestures – and none of these meaningful presents cost her a nickel. She really hoped her friends would still appreciate her free but significant presents when they realized there was no wrapped up gift from her under the tree.

    They stood there in a comfortable silence, enjoying the company of each other. Xander held the small reminder of rare childhood good times to his chest. Willow clasped Buffy’s hand and Buffy held back reassuringly.

    “Merry Christmas, guys.” She gave them an appreciative smile.

    “Merry Christmas,” they returned softly.

    The three locked arms and walked back into the house, chuckling when Anya and Dawn’s fla la la la floated out of the house far jollier than it was last night.


    The End
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    Oh, I was waiting for this to be complete! It`ll be my treat on New Years Day (if I manage to get an hour off of family duties...)

    Thanks for posting it here!

    flow
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    Thank you! I hope you enjoy it!
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    I enjoyed it. Thanks for posting!


    I like who I am when I’m with him. I like who we are together.”

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    It was lovely, very sweet and Christmassy. Thanks Sosa

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    This is a very sweet and lovely Christmas fic. Your plot idea is brilliant. I don`t think I have ever seen
    Spoiler:
    Buffy traveling back in time to meet kid!Xander and kid!Willow,
    . I adore the banner, which I suppose you made yourself?

    She thought she’d seen a shrimp platter in the kitchen a moment ago, so not the World Without Shrimp. One possibility down, umpteen million others to go.
    This is such a wonderful line. Just thrown in but referencing to my favorite running joke in the Buffyverse and it is simply great, how you managed to fit it in here with Buffy trying to figure out, which diemsnion she has ended up in.

    It is nice to see, how Buffy, who is not in a Christmas mood at all looks at her friends and sees how much worse they are off:

    Her two best friends never really experienced a fun Christmas childhood, have they? The aroma of the Christmas cookies her mother used to make. The butterflies in her tummy when helping her dad pick out a tree. Making a huge deal over having to write Dawn’s letter to Santa. Making a huger deal over going to share the joy of Christmas – more specifically their dinner – with the Millers. “Christmas is about giving,” Mom would say.
    Buffy found the light switch and… that was not what she expected. The place was a big dump filled with spider nets and filthy old boxes and none of the weird, unique stuff she remembered. Weirdest part was that Xander did actually make an effort to turn the place into, well, a less dump-y version of what it was now.
    and tries everything to make their Christmas happier.

    I loved the little snow globe, showing up in the future. What a comfort and a treat for Xander.

    And by the way, I am a clowna-phobic myself. It`s a thing. Don`t mock it I had it ever since I read Stepehn King`s "It".

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Have you or do you plan on posting it anywhere else except here and on tumblr? For example on AO3 or ff.net?

    flow

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    Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback, flow!

    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    Your plot idea is brilliant. I don`t think I have ever seen
    Spoiler:
    Buffy traveling back in time to meet kid!Xander and kid!Willow,
    .
    I'm glad I'm your first ever person to write about the gang as kids. I've actually read plenty of kid!Scoobies fics, especially Kid!Xander and Kid!Spike.

    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    I adore the banner, which I suppose you made yourself?
    Yes. My amature work does show.

    I have grown to enjoy the dynamic between Buffy, Xander and Willow especially in the later seasons. Their friendship is very complex and there are lots of delicious issues to tackle when writing a fic without turning one of them into a villian.


    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    And by the way, I am a clowna-phobic myself. It`s a thing. Don`t mock it I had it ever since I read Stepehn King`s "It".
    Clowns are creepy. I, myself, have an unexplainable fear of chicken! I think I share that fear with David Boreanaz.

    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Have you or do you plan on posting it anywhere else except here and on tumblr? For example on AO3 or ff.net?
    Actually I wrote this fic two years ago. I realized this year that I've never posted it here, so I thought I'd share it. You can find it in AO3 here.
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

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    Cool. That means, I can download it.

    flow
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    I really enjoyed your Christmas story, Sosa lola! Such a sweet and feelgood story despite the sad circumstances in both the present and the past. Btw I think Dawn and Anya are both right about the true nature of Christmas

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    Quote Originally Posted by flow View Post
    Cool. That means, I can download it.

    flow
    Go ahead!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Dutchess View Post
    I really enjoyed your Christmas story, Sosa lola! Such a sweet and feelgood story despite the sad circumstances in both the present and the past. Btw I think Dawn and Anya are both right about the true nature of Christmas
    Poor Anya. I've been in her shoes before. It sucks trying to bring joy to the holidays when everyone around you is a sulky mood-killer. I had to have Buffy thank her in the end, she deserves appreciation.
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    Yes, I liked the part where Buffy thanked Anya, I completely agree with you that she deserved it. And it's pretty sad that this was so unexpected for Anya...

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