EDIT: Forgot the picture! D'oh!
*~For Kayley, Holiday Fic-A-Thon 2007~*
Answering Challenge # 3104.
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing! No-thing! Joss owneth the Buffyverse and all its various permutations; Davis/Panzer et al owneth the Highlander-verse. Gekko, RDA and various other entities owneth the SG-1/SGA-verse.
This takes place after the events of Season 5, but is canon up to that point, with the notable exception that Joyce did not die. Yay!! There will be W/T lovin' (PG-13 type). Faith was paroled at the end of Season 5, for good behavior, and the Council sent her to SunnyD to stay with Buffy. Giles is still around, of course, and is Faith's Watcher as well.
I deviate completely from Highlander canon. Be warned. :)
SG-1 takes a little turn around Season 9.
We Wish You a Merry....Chapter 1: Gingerbread
"I don't get it." Tara Maclay scratched her head, frowning at the bowl of cookie dough that was utterly failing to look like gingerbread men. "Will? Where are the cookie cutters?" She pulled out the same drawer that had been checked three times already, sighing in frustration. She'd looked for the scurvy things in about every place she could think of, and was just about ready to abandon the mission and go buy another set.
Willow Rosenberg stuck a disheveled red head through the kitchen door, a notebook clutched in her hand. "Hmm? Oh, the aluminium ones? They're in the bottom drawer, baby." She continued fully into the kitchen, absently pecking Tara on the cheek as she passed. She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot that stood ready on the breakfast island, and slid onto a stool, where she was soon engrossed once again in the calculations scribbled on the sheet of paper before her.
Tara smiled wryly as she slid a plate of toast over to rest next to Willow's teacup. Her girlfriend got so caught up in her classes, she sometimes forgot to eat. Just three days before, Tara'd had to pry the notebook from Willow's hands and sit her firmly down at the dining room table, with the little redhead protesting all the way.
As Tara cut out the last gingerbread person and decorated it with raisins, Willow came quietly up beside her, notebook not in evidence, and wrapped slender arms around her beloved's waist, squeezing gently. "Hiya, baby," she murmured in Tara's ear. "How goes the cookie extravaganza?"
Tara gave her a sultry sideways look. "Just need to put these in the oven, and then I'm all yours," she smiled. "But first..." She dropped the gingerbread onto the cookie sheet, sliding her arms around Willow's neck, and planted a warm kiss on her girlfriend's lips. They stood for a few moments, just gently kissing and basking in each other; then Tara broke away, with a series of soft kisses to Willow's eyelids, cheeks and forehead. She quickly slid the pan into the heated oven, and closed the door, resuming her prior position in Willow's arms. "Where were we?" she grinned.
"Right about here, I think..." Willow kissed her sweetly again. *****
Several hours and one nearly-scorched batch of cookies later, Dawn and Tara were putting up holiday decorations in the Summers/Maclay/Rosenberg/Lehane living room. They'd already put an evergreen strand down the stair railing, trimmed with velvet bows, and were working on the spaces above the fireplace, where Tara had put up a series of cup hooks to hold the balsam roping and the sprigs of holly. Buffy and Faith were out doing the last of their holiday shopping.
"You're good at this stuff, Tare," Dawn commented as she heaved the roping higher so Tara could trim the mantelpiece. It smelled heavenly, but was heavy, and sticky here and there with pitch.
"Thanks, Dawnie, you're a natural, too," the blonde replied, pulling a zip tie around the roping and looping it over a hook. "OK, we're going to just trim it off here; hold it up for a moment longer...there!" She cut through the strand with a pair of pruning shears, leaving the end to fall gracefully against the brick portion of the fireplace wall.
Dawn set the pile of evergreen fronds carefully down on the newspapers they'd placed next to the couch for that purpose, and stepped back to survey their work. "Wow..." she breathed. "It looks great!" Her blue eyes twinkled with happiness. The dark wood and brick of the large fireplace were framed perfectly by the rope of balsam, which Tara was now accenting with little bundles of heavily-berried holly twigs. (Dawn noticed that small silver Stars of David and pentacles were interspersed with the holly.)
The teenager turned slowly in place, taking it all in. The staircase looked great; the front door held a beautiful wreath that Tara and Willow had made, enhanced with protection and blessing herbs, and adorned with a big red and green plaid bow.
The door in question opened at that moment, admitting a tiny green-eyed blonde and a taller, dark-eyed brunette, both laden with more shopping bags than it seemed they could carry. The blonde wore dark brown corded jeans, with brown boots, a cream cowl-necked sweater and a fawn-coloured suede coat. The brunette wore snug black jeans, a rather tight red v-necked sweater and a black leather coat, with black Doc Martens boots. Both were grinning from ear to ear.
"Wow, it smells awesome in here, T," commented the brunette as she stepped into the room and set her bags carefully near the stairs. "Hey, D," she greeted Dawn, who gave her a little wave. "Mail's here," she continued, taking several large-ish envelopes from the inside of her coat. "T, you have mail from Washington State..."
"What? Ooh, Faith, lemme have that!" Tara scurried across the room, and all but snatched the envelope from the dark-haired Slayer's hand. "It's from my cousin Duncan!" she squealed.
"Duncan? From Seacouver? Tall, dark, gorgeous Duncan?" Buffy blurted out.
"Yep, that's him," Tara answered a bit absently, as she had torn open the envelope to reveal a beautiful holiday card, and was reading the message inscribed inside it. "He's coming to visit for Yule!" she cried excitedly.
"Ooh, awesome!" Buffy exclaimed, doing a little jump. Then blushed a fiery crimson shade when everyone turned to look at her with knowing grins.
The Scoobies had met Tara's cousin the previous summer, when they'd all taken a road trip to Washington State; Duncan had unexpectedly called a few weeks after the final week of classes at UCS, inviting Tara and her friends – which, surprisingly, included a bemused Giles – to visit for a bit. They had had a wonderful time in Seacouver, taking day trips into Seattle, meeting "Mac's" friends Richie, Joe and Amanda, and just being "normal" for once. He and Buffy had taken a real shine to one another, which had surprised no one, given Buffy’s penchant for tall, dark, brooding men.
Just then, the phone rang. Buffy answered. “Hello, Summers et al, this is Buffy.”
“Hey Buff!” It was Xander.
“Hey, Xand! Are you guys on your way?” Buffy asked.
“Yep; we’re coming up Revello now. See you in a few…and have some hands to help, ‘kay?”
“Will do; just honk when you pull up, and Faith and I will be right out. See you in a bit!” She rang off. “Faith, Xander and Mike are almost here with the tree; want to help me out?”
The younger Slayer shook out her shoulders. “You betcha, B; let me just go change out of this sweater and I’ll be right back.” She dashed up the stairs and was back in record time, pulling at the sleeves of a brand-new black long-sleeved tee shirt. Emblazoned on the front was the face of a scowling baby with a football-shaped head, and the legend “Born to Be Bad” written above it. It was instantly recognizable as Stewie Griffin from the show “Family Guy” and Dawn and Buffy both cracked up laughing when they saw it.
“Nice shirt, there, F,” Buffy grinned.
Faith just laughed. At that moment, a horn sounded from outside. “That’s the Xan-Man, B! Let’s show them what two hot chicks with superpowers can do with a Christmas tree!” She scampered out the front door, Buffy hard on her heels, both of them giggling like lunatics.
“Keep the door open, T-Bear,” Faith called back over her shoulder. Tara shook her head, smiling broadly at their antics.
Xander watched with a grin as the two girls hurled themselves down the front stairs, racing toward the pickup truck. He turned to Mike, his foreman for the latest construction job, asking, “You ready for this, man?”
Mike Wilkins – “no relation to Hizzoner the Snake”, he’d quipped when he had come on the job with Xander – shook his head. “Nah,” he denied cheerfully. “But clearly they are!” He hooked a thumb in the direction of the two running girls.
The brown-eyed carpenter chuckled as the two men hopped out of the truck. “Yep, they were born ready, I think.”
Buffy and Faith reached the truck, not even a little out of breath, but with sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks in the unseasonably chilly day. With no hesitation, Faith leaped up into the back of the truck and began carefully unclipping the bungee cords holding the – “Holy friggin’ Moses, Xan, this isn’t a tree, it’s a small forest!” she exclaimed, pausing in her endeavor as she took in the size of the blue spruce.
“Actually, it’s two trees,” Mike corrected gently, pointing out the second trunk that lay beneath the first. “One for inside, and one to plant outside. It was Xander’s idea. See how the one on the bottom has burlap around the trunk?”
Faith nodded in understanding. “I get it; it’s gotta stay damp, right?” she queried.
“Exactly right,” Mike said approvingly
“It’s still got a root system, and it’s only eight feet tall. Buffy, can you get the hand truck out of the back of the cab, please?” Xander requested.
“Got it.” Buffy darted around the side of the crew cab and soon returned with a large hand truck rolling smoothly beside her. Meanwhile, Mike and Faith had gotten the upper, ‘inside’ tree down and were carefully transporting it into the house, with the top part leading the way. Dawn already had set up the tree stand and was waiting patiently to help.
The two original Scoobies watched the progress of the tree for a moment, and exchanged a smile. “I just can’t get over how different she is,” Buffy murmured.
“I know exactly what you mean,” Xander acknowledged. “Myself, I never thought I’d see the day that Faith could be described as…mellow
.” He laughed, and Buffy joined him.
“It’s more than that, though,” the blonde mused, as she helped Xander with the heavy root ball of the remaining tree. “She’s been awesome all around…she treats Dawnie like a little sister – more so than I do, sometimes,” she admitted, a little chagrined. “And she’s even starting to get along with Willow more, and Tara and she just took to one another from the start.”
The blonde witch had admitted to Buffy that she’d always wanted a sister, instead of the unpleasant brother she’d been stuck with – “and Faith seems perfect to fill the spot,”
Tara’d grinned. “Of course,”
she’d continued, “she seems more like the MacLeods than the Maclays! Stubborn, headstrong, opinionated – that’s what my Gran always said about her Clan.”
Coming back to the present, Buffy went on with her musing as she and Xander got the tree fastened to the hand truck, and began wheeling it slowly toward the spot he’d prepared for it the day before. It sank lightly into the soft ground, but Slayer strength kept it from digging a trench. “It’s like…I don’t know…like she’s become the person she was meant
to be, before everything went bad.” She looked up into compassionate brown eyes.
"I know exactly what you mean, Buffy." Xander's voice was soft and understanding.
"Knew you would, Xan." They smiled at each other. "C'mon, let's get our mighty tree into the ground before the roots dry out."