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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

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Summary: Someone shows up to remind Buffy and Angel of some previously ignored facts of their lives.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralGreywizardFR714,9724204,13922 Dec 0822 Dec 08Yes
Disclaimer: They all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. Deal with it. I have.

Time Frame: Begins during Season Three, Episode 44, 'Amends.'

Spoilers: None intended, but if you don’t know what happened up to this point, why are you reading this story?

Character Bashing: Nah. Not this time.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author’s Note 1: Many thanks to Lori Bush, Tim Joy, Bill Haden and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this story.

Author's Note 2: This scene begins during Buffy's attempt to prevent Angel from committing suicide by standing unprotected from the coming dawn. Most of the initial dialogue is taken from the BtVS Episode Guide and transcripts site, http://www.buffy-vs-angel.com/guide.shtml , Season Three, Episode 44, 'Amends.' It's a bit long, but it's needed to set the mood.

As usual, "word" indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

December 24, 1997
Outside Angel's mansion


Angel was standing at the top of the bluff looking out over a peaceful residential area of town as Buffy ran up to join him. He glanced over as she softly called his name, but the returned his gaze to the rooftops spread out before them.

"I bet half the kids down there are already awake. Lying in their beds... sneaking downstairs... waiting for dawn," he commented casually.

"Angel, please," Buffy panted, a bit out of breath from both her run and her worries about him. "I need for you to get inside. Th-there's only a few minutes left."

"I know," he nodded, his face impassive. "I can smell the sunrise long before it comes."

"I don't have time to explain this. You just have to trust me," she told him. "That thing that was haunting you..."

"It wasn't haunting me. It was showing me."

"Showing you?" Buffy repeated, confused at the comment.

"What I am."

"Were," she corrected him, insistently.

"And ever shall be. I wanted to know why I was back. Now I do." He didn’t seem interested in arguing with her; it was more like he was resigned to the decision he’d made.

"You *don't* know. Some great evil takes credit for bringing you back and you buy it? You just give up?" Left unsaid was the fact that neither trusted the fact that ‘the good guys’ would lift a finger to help them.

"I can't do it again, Buffy," Angel told her harshly. "I can't become a killer."

"Then fight it," she told him.

"It's too hard," he shook his head.

Buffy’s desperation was obvious in her voice. "Angel, please, you *have* to get inside."

"It told me to kill you," he announced casually. "You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again."

"I know what it told you," she replied. "What does it matter?"

"Because I wanted to!" he half-shouted. "Because I want you so badly! I want to take comfort in you, and I know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care," he sobbed. "Look, I'm weak. I've never been anything else. It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man."

"You're weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil did bring you back, but if it did, it's because it needs you. And that means that you can hurt it," she pointed out, desperate to find some reason for him to fight.

Angel just shook his head.

"Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends," Buffy told him. "But if you die now, then all that you ever were was a monster."

She looked out at the sky and saw it beginning to lighten.

"Angel, please," she begged. "The sun is coming up!"

"Just go," he replied, staring at the hint of growing light and not looking at her.

"I won't!"

"What, do you think this is simple?" he asked as he half-turned back to her. "You think there's an easy answer? You can never understand what I've done! Now go!"

"You are not staying here," Buffy declared as she grabbed his arm. "I won't let you!"

"I said LEAVE!" Angel yelled as he jerked his arm free of her grasp.

In her anger and desperation, Buffy punched him, and he reacted by shoving her away from him roughly, making her fall face forward, hard to the ground.

"Oh, my God..." he muttered to himself when he realized what he had done. As he crouched over her, grabbing her by the shoulders and turning her around to face him, Buffy mistook his intentions and cried out.

"No! No!"

He grabbed her roughly by the arms and held her firmly.

"Am I a thing worth saving, huh?" he demanded as he shook her arm. "Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!"

"What about me?" Buffy demanded tearfully. "I love you so much... And I tried to make you go away – I killed you and it didn't help…

"And I hate it!" she yelled, sobbing as she shoved him off of her and pushed herself up to her feet. "I hate that it's *so* hard and that you can hurt me *so* much.

"I know everything that you did, because you did it to me," she said, her sobs making her words almost unintelligible. "Oh, God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don't.

"I can't," she then whispered, not looking at him.

"Buffy, please. Just this once – let me be strong –" Angel pleaded, staring down at his forbidden love.

Before the near-hysterical blonde could respond, a new voice interrupted them.

"Oh my god! I remembered this as being a poignant and heartbreaking moment with two lovers arguing about their possible future together!" A huff followed this declaration.

"Not two pathetic, whiny, self-pitying drama queens acting out some spat with dialogue that sounds like it was written by some third-rate soap opera hack!"

Both Buffy and Angel instantly stopped their arguing to turn and stare in surprise at the stranger standing a bare dozen feet away. The upraised hood of their faded navy blue sweatshirt concealed the face of the newcomer, but their body language clearly displayed their scorn and disdain for the two's ongoing argument.

"What – what did you call us?" Buffy finally managed to spit out, her emotional anguish with Angel's self-destructive impulses channeling itself into anger at this unexpected interruption of her attempt to get him to save himself. "And who the hell're you, anyway?"

"I called you ‘two pathetic, whiny, self-pitying drama queens,’ who sound like they're doing a scene from some third-rate 'Passions' rip-off," the intruder replied, derision clear in their voice.

"Which I almost wish I was watching," she added. "That way, I could at least change the channel and not have to subject myself to this drivel."

As the woman, a fact evident to both from her voice and her bearing, took a step forward and began approaching them, she continued speaking before either of the pair could respond.

"Angel, you need to stop doing your 'poor-little-me' routine and get your head on straight," the newcomer said as she turned her focus to the ensouled vampire.

"*You* didn't really do any of those things you've been brooding about and making yourself miserable thinking about for the last hundred years or so," she informed the vampire. "The demon you've been forced to live with is the one who actually did all of those things.

"*That's* who really enjoyed inflicting all that pain and suffering, and that's who those gypsy assholes who did the soul-restoration spell wanted to punish – not you," she reminded both Angel and Buffy. "As far as they're concerned, you just happened to be collateral damage to the curse they cast.

"And the fact that you've been doing all this angst-ing and that you’ve actually been considering killing yourself because you feel so bad about all of that stuff isn't going to do anything to punish that demon at all. The only thing doing something like that might accomplish would be to release the blood demon and give it the opportunity to possibly possess some other poor bastard's body," she noted.

"And didn't the thought ever occur to you that the demon might be really enjoying all the suffering that you've been putting yourself through over what it did?" the visitor followed up her observation with a very disturbing question.

The expression on both Angel's and Buffy's faces at that particular thought showed clearly that neither of them had ever considered that idea before this moment.

"If you really want to try and atone for everything the demon did, you need to start getting involved in helping people make their lives better. And doing whatever you can to make the demon suffer wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, either," the older blonde noted.

"You should be out doing good deeds, helping people out as much as you can, and performing as many acts of kindness and other things like that that you can think of. Think about it - every kind act you perform will make the demon scream as much as if you were actually pressing crosses against its skin," she pointed out.

"Give kittens and puppies to children at orphanages, do things to make them laugh and enjoy the smiles they'll give you, and I'll bet you'll eventually feel the demon start screaming and beg you to stop! Stop moping around, get rid of all of that black goth stuff you've been wearing, and maybe start thinking about wearing brighter colors.

"Hell, if you really want to make the demon suffer, you could borrow a couple of Xander's Hawaiian shirts and start wearing them!" she then suggested with the hint of a grin, eliciting a thunderstruck expression from the ensouled vampire with that comment. "That's the kind of thing that would probably make its eyes bleed!

"And you need to get your head out of your ass, girl, wake up, and start appreciating everything you have, rather than whining and moaning about the things you don't have that you've decided are so much more important than what you've actually got," the woman declared emphatically, turning to focus her attention on the petite blonde staring so intently at her.

"Just who the hell do you think you are, to be telling me what I should be doing and thinking?" Buffy demanded angrily upon hearing the woman's advice, having watched with astonishment the dressing down the woman had given the Slayer’s demonic boyfriend.

"You have no idea what I've been going through!" she declared self-righteously, clenching her fists in an effort to try and control her completely justifiable rage at the way this person was sticking her nose in where it didn't belong.

Although, given the expression currently on his face, it appeared that there was a chance that Angel might actually be considering paying attention to the woman's advice, which would be all of the good, Buffy reflected to herself, so maybe the woman wasn't entirely wrong about some of the stuff she was saying.

"Actually, I know *exactly* what you’re going through, Emo-Girl," the woman answered her comment with a semi-sneer as she took another step closer to the tiny blonde, pushing back the hood that had, up to this moment, hidden her face.

Angel’s jaw dropped, just like the main character’s did in so many clichéd and trashy romance novels and movies, as he recognized the newcomer.

It took Buffy a moment longer to realize who she was looking at, but then her eyes bulged with shock, momentarily making her resemble one of the heroines of any of the innumerable anime films available at the video stores that she had watched on occasion with both Xander and Willow.

"How –? What – You can’t be –" the Slayer started to object, before again being cut off by the new arrival.

"Yes, I most certainly can be. And I am," an older, twenty-something Buffy Summers stated as she looked at her younger self with an expression that most definitely reminded the teen of her mother.

"I’m you."

The look accompanying those two simple words combined annoyance, disapproval, anger and disappointment, while still somehow managing to convey an unquestionable sense of constancy and dependability, and the unwavering sense that the person wearing that expression would always be there for you and never abandon you, no matter what you might have done, was something that made her feel both heartened and the least bit ashamed for whatever actions she’d taken that would have precipitated that expression.

"Like I said, I know exactly what you’ve been through," the elder Slayer stated, in a tone considerably less harsh than the one she had just been using, "and I also know everything else that’s probably going to be happening if you don’t finally wise up and straighten yourself out."

Seeing the angry, defensive expression lighting up the younger girl’s eyes at her seemingly critical words, the elder Buffy began explaining her statement.

"I know all about all the angst you’re going through right now while trying to live with this incredibly clichéd, cinematic, star-crossed romance you think you’ve got going on right now, and there’s something I have to say that you really need to hear:

"Grow up!"

Seeing the shocked and outraged expression on the younger girl’s face upon hearing her words, the elder Buffy seized the advantage and continued speaking.

"You already know as well as I do that nothing is ever going to develop between the two of you as long as that curse exists, and you also know that, barring divine intervention or something else along those lines, that there’s nothing you can do to get rid of it, either," she stated matter-of-factly.

"But hanging onto the idea of that impossible, oh-so-romantic forbidden destiny kind of love, even when you know it’s impossible, makes it easy for you for not have to face up to the other realities of your life," the intruder went on.

Seeing the words of protest forming on her younger self’s face, the older Buffy waved her hand for the other to remain quiet.

"You can‘t lie to me, girl," she said quietly as she stared into the teen’s eyes. "You know that what I‘m saying is true, whether you want to admit it or not.

"Focusing on what you can’t possibly ever have makes it easier to ignore what you might be able to have, if you just took a chance and reached out," the older Buffy said.

"Willow and Faith could very easily be the sisters you always wanted when you were younger and growing up all alone, if you just let them in," she told to the younger version of herself.

"You know – people that you knew you could actually trust and that you could talk to about all the questions about boys and other things you really couldn’t discuss with Mom," the newcomer told the teen. "People who you could just relax and be yourself with and not have to worry about what they might be saying about you behind your back.

"Neither of them is anything like Ginger and the other girls you used to hang around with back in Hemery, are they?" she questioned the teen.

"No, they’re not anything like them, at all," the younger Slayer grudgingly admitted as she shook her head as she considered her older doppelganger’s words.

"Willow doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body, and Faith’s definitely more of an in-your-face kind of person; if you’re doing something she doesn’t like, she’ll always call you on your BS," she reluctantly agreed.

"You’ve been complaining ever since you got Called that you wished you had someone who really could understand just what your life is like as the Slayer, and ever since Faith showed up here, you’ve been going out of your way to avoid really talking to her about any of that stuff," the elder Slayer stated.

"And Xander’s exactly the kind of guy you always said you were looking for, back when you were still dating those arrogant jock assholes at Hemery and complaining about the way they were always trying to get their hands all over you, right?" the visitor asked rhetorically, already knowing the answer to her question.

"He’s loyal, trustworthy – and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the whole fluking thing was because of outside influences – and he’s also a lot of fun to be with," she pointed out the brunet’s better qualities. "And he’s also someone you were thinking about more than just casually, until you found out Willow liked him, remember?

"I’m not saying he’s someone you’ve got to stay with forever or anything," Older Buffy shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, "but for the time being, while you’re in high school, you could be enjoying yourself with someone who could be with you any time of the day, without having to worry about whether he’s going to go ‘poof!’ if he walks through a stray beam of sunlight."

"What are you doing here?" the younger Slayer demanded, a frown creasing her forehead as she considered the older woman’s unexpected appearance. "How is that you’re showing up here right now, right when me and Angel were arguing about our future together?"

"Because I was given a chance to help you straighten out your life, kid," the older woman replied as some complex combination of emotions crossed her face too quickly for the younger girl to recognize. "To give you some advice before you screwed up your life any more than it is, and maybe screw up most of your friends’ lives, too."

"What do you mean, before I screw up my friends’ lives? What are you talking about?" the younger blonde demanded, a frown furrowing her forehead with concern at the suggestion that she might be responsible for creating problems in her friends’ lives in addition to her own.

"Have you ever even thought about talking to Giles about training Willow and Xander to fight?" was the answer she received.

"You’ve complained a fair number of times about how they're always getting hurt helping out with the Slaying, but you’ve never really done anything that might help them learn to defend themselves better than they can now, have you?" the elder Slayer challenged her, the expression on her face telling anyone who might be watching that she already damn well knew the answer to her question.

"Willow got tossed around and ended up with a concussion and Xander got his arm broken last year helping you try to stop Acathla from opening, and you never even gave them a simple ‘thank you’ for helping prevent the world from getting sucked into Hell, let alone try to help train them to fight better, once you got back into town," the visitor pointed out.

"Hell, you not only never thanked Xander for saving your life after you fought the Master, you humiliated him with that lap-dance you gave him in front of most of the school at the beginning of the year," the older blonde reminded the younger woman, making her blush with embarrassment and shame at her previous behavior.

"How do you think you’d feel if Willow or Xander or Giles got their necks snapped or got their eye gouged out by some Big Bad when they were trying to help you and help save other people who followed you and ended up in trouble because you were too arrogant to try and figure out exactly what was going on and you just rushed in somewhere?"

The greenish tinge that immediately colored the younger woman’s complexion as she listened to the other woman made the answer to that particular question quite clear.

"Nothing like that really happened, did it?" Buffy immediately demanded from her doppelganger, her voice frantic with concern even as tears began to fill her eyes at the thought of her friends being injured or killed in such a manner.

"Nobody really got hurt like that, did they?"

"You've got a chance to change a lot of things; to prevent what's happened in my life from happening in yours, Buffy," the woman told her, the restrained tone of her voice somehow managing to emphasize the importance of what she was saying and making the younger woman focus on her words more intently than she thought she'd ever done for anything else in her life before this moment.

"The place I'll be going home to once I leave here is dark and silent and empty," the visitor said quietly. "That's because there's no one there.

"Don't survive here and grow up to just end up living alone. Don't make the same mistakes I made, okay?"

The younger Slayer thought she might have seen the faintest trace of tears glistening in the older woman's eyes as she spoke, and she reflexively nodded her head in agreement even as her mind whirled with the unexpected information she and Angel had both just been presented with.

"My time here is up," the older woman abruptly announced as she caught sight of a glowing green oval which had suddenly appeared a few yards off to one side and she immediately began heading towards it.

"Just remember – whatever might happen in the future is all up to you, now," she declared as she looked into her younger self's eyes.

"So you're not going to be able to blame anyone for what you decide to do but yourself," she warned, just before she stepped into the swirling surface of the portal and disappeared

A fraction of an instant later, the portal vanished, too, leaving in its wake two shocked and dazed witnesses.

"I – I have to say, what she just said certainly sounds like things we should both be thinking about," Angel finally broke the ensuing silence to say.

"Yeah," Buffy nodded somewhat numbly, feeling more than a little dazed by what had just they'd just learned. "You're right about that."

"Go on – go back home, Buffy," Angel suggested as he gave a last look at the vague suggestion of the dawning light that was beginning to color the horizon before turning and heading back towards the mansion.

"That's where you need to be right now," he told her. "You have a lot of things you need to think about.

"We both do," he noted.

Seeing the uncertain look she was giving him, he added, "I promise you, I won't even consider doing anything like what I was thinking about.

"Going by what we just heard, now it seems more like a coward's solution to my – situation, and that's one choice I won't make," he told her, looking her full in the eye so that she could see the truth of his words.

"Okay," the blonde nodded her hesitant agreement with his assessment of the situation.

"I’ll try to see you sometime tomorrow night, okay?" she said as she, too, turned to begin heading to her home.

"Yeah, that would be good," Angel agreed. "I'll see you tomorrow night."

"Yeah. Tomorrow night."

***

Joyce looked up in surprise and Faith reflexively jumped to her feet from her position slouched on the couch next to her as the front door suddenly opened and a stream of people began filing into the house.

"Hi, Mom," Buffy greeted her mother with a somewhat worn, but genuine smile as she closed the door behind her.

"I know it's kinda late, but I didn't think you'd mind me inviting a couple more people over to join us for some hot chocolate," she said as she indicated Giles, Xander, Willow and Oz standing by the door and looking at Joyce a bit uncomfortably at their late-hour appearance.

"After all, you're always saying that Christmas is the time for family to get together, right?" she parroted back one of her mother's favorite holiday phrases while trying to convey to Joyce just how important this gathering was to her with a soulful pleading puppy dog-eyed look.

"Uh, I'm sorry to be intruding at this hour, Joyce, but Buffy kept pounding on my door and refused to leave unless I accompanied her over here," a flustered Giles tried to explain his unexpected presence at such a late hour.

"Yeah, the Buffster pretty much dumped me out of my sleeping bag in the backyard and dragged me along, Missus Summers," Xander chimed in with a somewhat uncertain smile.

"And she just kept knocking on my front door and wouldn't leave until we came with the rest of them, too," Willow added in her and Oz's defense.

"Why, uh, sure, Buffy. I guess that, uh, everyone would probably want to enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate to celebrate the holiday," Joyce tentatively agreed as she tried to figure out exactly what it was her daughter had in mind, inviting everyone over to their house at this time of night.

"Come on in and make yourselves comfortable, everyone," she smiled hospitably at the Gang, gesturing towards the various chairs and couches.

"Well, now that you're back, I'm gonna fly, B," Faith said, trying to take advantage of the minor confusion of the Scoobies' finding seats to slide by her mystical sibling and slip out the front door.

"Uh-uh, you're staying right here, Faith," Buffy disagreed shaking her head as she caught hold of the brunette's arm and pulled her back and closer to her.

"Didn't you hear me when I said that family should be together at Christmas?" she asked, giving her a somewhat uncertain smile as she spoke.

Pitching her voice a bit lower in an effort to keep their conversation private and unheard by the others, Buffy looked Faith directly in the eye as she said, "Look, I know I haven't been all that sociable and share-y and stuff since you showed up, but I've finally realized that we're a whole lot more alike than any two other girls on the planet than we are different – what with us being the only two Chosen Ones and everything – and I'd like to think that we could end up being friends and not just people who work together fighting demons and other things like that.

"So, what do you say? Want to give being a full-fledged Scooby a whirl?" she tentatively smiled as she let her hand slide down Faith's arm to grasp the brunette's hand in a firm grip.

"Well, as long as we're not gonna end up braiding each other's hair or doing other shit like that, I guess I could it give a shot," Faith hesitantly gave her an equally uncertain grin as she slowly nodded and returned Buffy's grip.

"Good. Want some ice in your hot chocolate?" Buffy smiled more readily this time. "'Cause I think the marshmallows have already melted."

~~~

The blonde woman in the faded blue sweatshirt stepped through the glowing emerald portal and looked at the large, dark and empty house she was standing in front of and at the tall brunette who was watching her so intently.

"How'd everything go?" the brunette asked, concern and interest clearly evident in her eyes.

"Exactly the way I hoped they would," Buffy Summers smiled as she considered the more vivid and joyful of the two sets of memories that were now filling her mind.

A small smile creased her lips as she heard the sound of a car turning into the driveway and she turned to see a large dark green Range Rover park in front of the three-car garage attached to the house.

"Mommy! Aunt Dawn! Guess what! We got candy canes at the mall and Aunt Willow and Aunt Tara gave us a gingerbread house that they baked for us to bring home and Aunt Anya gave us decorations to put on the tree and Grandpa and Grandmom and everyone else at the Magic Box all promised that they'd come and help us decorate our Christmas tree for Christmas!" two small figures babbled excitedly as they launched themselves from the rear seats of the vehicle in the direction of the two women. The younger also threw in a wide-eyed, “And Aunt Faith punched Santa at the mall when her grabbed her bottom!”

Buffy smiled to herself as she stooped to lift the children she could now remember so gladly and thankfully giving birth to, while reflecting on the events that had occurred in both versions of her life that she now remembered.

She'd told her younger self the complete and brutal truth when she'd said that the home she'd been returning to was dark and silent and empty – in the original timeline she remembered, it was because she had basically alienated pretty much everyone in her life, pushing them away and refusing to respond to any attempts her former friends had made to include her in their lives, justifying her actions to herself with empty platitudes about necessity and sacrifice and trying not to admit how much she hated her life.

It was only when Dawn had shown up earlier that morning to berate her for her ongoing misanthropy and to offer her an opportunity to try to go back and correct some of the mistakes that she'd felt she'd made in her life that she had finally managed to gather together her courage and take the chance being given her.

*This* house she now stood outside of was dark and silent and empty, too – but only because there wasn't anyone home at the moment, what with her family being out shopping at various stores as they got ready for their annual family gathering.

Smiling at the dark-haired man who was grinning cheerfully at her as he struggled to carry the massive evergreen tree into their house through the back door, Buffy bestowed a heartfelt kiss on her sister's cheek.

"Thanks to you, this is the best Christmas I've ever had, Dawnie," she declared, her eyes filling with tears of joy as she began carrying her children into their home.

"Mommy, Aunt Dawn's getting all glow-y again," the blonde-haired moppet on her hip observed in a very loud whisper. "Is she a Christmas angel, like in the stories?"

"Yes, baby, she most certainly is," Buffy agreed with a beatific smile.

"She's *my* Christmas angel."

FIN

The End

You have reached the end of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear". This story is complete.

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