Disclaimer: Nobody writing this story owns the rights to BtVS or Supernatural.
Buffy got a box of tinsel out and started hanging strands on the tree branches. She had cut the tree down herself, then took most of the weight to carry it back to the car with Xander, just so nobody would ask any questions about how strong she was. She stepped back and rested one hand on her hip, tilting her head to study the decorations. “Maybe I should make one of those popcorn garland thingies.”
“Do you think so?” Dawn asked. “I mean, we can, but I like the garland and lights thing. The popcorn might make it too busy.”
“It’s a Christmas tree. It’s not going to end up with an anxiety disorder.”
“You mean like Xander?” Dawn giggled, staring sideways at the older man and the way he was constantly wringing his hands.
Xander glanced over at the sisters, frowning. “What?”
Buffy laughed. “I just want to have a nice Christmas. One without suicidal vampires or creepy weirdo Bringers.”
Dawn stuck her tongue out. “And if we’re gonna have a nice Christmas, then the tree should at least be partially visible. Mom never overloaded the tree,” she finished softly. “She always liked to see the branches more than the stuff we put on it.”
Buffy was quiet as she looked back at Dawn. “Okay. You’re right, the tree’s fine.”
Dawn gave Buffy a tiny smile, fingering the closest branch of the tree. “Cool.”
Willow walked into the living room and glanced at the tree, then snorted. “Christmas.”
“Hey! No interjections from the Jewish peanut gallery, please! We had Hanukkah all last week, even though you’re ‘barely Jewish’ anymore, okay?” Dawn chastised, scowling at her.
“And it’s not like you don’t enjoy watching Charlie Brown with us every Christmas,” Xander added quietly, shrugging.
“Well, maybe I want to try something different. All the Yule stuff just reminds me of Tara, anyway.” Willow pouted. “Kennedy went back to spend the holiday with her family. Christmas is stupid.”
Buffy kept her back to Willow, but narrowed her eyes.
Dawn stared at Willow, her lips pressed together tightly. “Well, bah humbug, Scrooge. Is there anything about this time of year that does cheer you up?”
“When it’s over.” Willow smiled.
Buffy turned around and folded her arms across her chest. “Our mom loved Christmas. You know that. And we love it, too. If you don’t want to be here, you can always go somewhere else.” She glanced at Dawn, then Xander. “Oh, wait. Was that me, just throwing somebody out? Who does that kind of thing?”
Dawn looked at Buffy sadly. “I’m sorry that I ever did. I’ve mentioned that, right?” She turned back to Willow quickly, and her gaze darkened. “And it’s not like you don’t have Council travel at your disposal. Ask Giles to let you use the plane or something. I’m sure he’d be glad to take you in.”
“Jeez, all I said was that I don’t like Christmas.” Willow protested.
“We’re okay.” Buffy told Dawn quietly.
Dawn nodded, giving a sigh of relief and leaning against her older sister’s shoulder. “Yeah, Wills, and you never had a problem with it before, so what gives?”
“Textbook passive crap.” Buffy blurted. She looked surprised. “Wow, I didn’t even know that I knew that.”
“I didn’t like my parents treating me like a case study, what makes you think I’d be okay with you doing it, Buffy?” Willow demanded.
“You’re forgetting one little thing. I don’t really care what you think.” Buffy retorted.
“We’re trying to celebrate a holiday and remember everyone we lost, and you’re being an enormous jerk about it just because you miss Tara. Well big freaking boo-hoo, Willow, you aren’t the only person that lost someone! How do you think Xander feels? This is his first Christmas without Anya!”
Xander gave a soft groan. “Please don’t bring me into this...”
“No, of course not. Why get involved in an argument if you don’t have to?” Buffy shook her head.
“You’re really still pissed at us for something that happened seven months ago?” Willow glanced at Xander, then looked back at Buffy. “You were out of control.”
“Unless ‘you were out of control’ is Martian for ‘I’m sorry,’ I think you said it wrong.”
“You’re out of line, Buffy,” Xander said, standing.
Dawn moved in front of him. “Now, see, Xander, that’s the thing. I don’t think she is. I think she’s right on the money, because I just realized that out of all of the people there the night we kicked her out? Faith and I were the only ones who apologized to her.” She folded her arms, tapping her foot. “I’ve yet to hear ANYTHING from either you or Willow. Or Giles, for that matter.”
“Well, you’re not going to. Not from me, anyway. Buffy, you were off the deep end. You hadn’t slept in days, you were making bad decisions. Girls died because you weren’t thinking clearly.” Willow insisted.
“Uh huh.” Buffy said sarcastically. “So I guess it’s okay to kill someone directly then, right?”
“Or threaten to turn someone back into energy?” Dawn added, angrily.
“Don’t talk to me that way! Tara had just been murdered with a bullet meant for-”
“Me.” Buffy finished when Willow trailed off and looked horrified. “Warren was trying to kill me.”
“He almost did,” Dawn whispered, looking down. “You were clinically dead on the operating table.”
“This walk down memory lane has been less than fun.” Xander interjected. “Can we stop now?”
“We wouldn’t have even started if Willow hadn’t opened her mouth!” Dawn shot back.
“So all of a sudden, you’re on her side?” Willow rolled her eyes. “Dawnie, you’re every bit as guilty as we are. Aren’t.”
“Except that she’s apologized to me over and over again. Wow, you really don’t listen to anything that isn’t your own voice, do you? Giles was going to let Robin kill Spike. After telling me and Xander that we couldn’t go out on dates, he decided Faith could take all of the potentials to the Bronze. And look how that turned out.”
“You really do think you’re better than me and Xander, don’t you?” Willow moved to stand beside her best friend.
“No.” Buffy said quietly. “I know I’m better than both of you.”
Dawn moved to stand solidly at her sister’s side. “For your information, Willow. This was never about choosing sides. But you, as brilliant as you used to be... you can’t understand that. She’s my SISTER. She is my blood. I’m always going to forgive her, and she’ll always forgive me.” She glanced at Buffy. “No matter how many times I screw up.” Looking back at Willow, she shook her head. “That’s what you do when you love someone, you idiot. Buffy could forgive Spike everything. He didn’t even really need to apologize. Faith screwed up more than anyone could have... And Buffy still forgave her. Buffy could maybe even forgive you... but you, and Xander, and Giles, you’re all so hellbent on believing that you’re right, and she’s wrong, that you won’t even consider anything else. So why in the hell should she ever kowtow to you? She IS better than both of you. And what’s more? She doesn’t need to try. It’s a damn fact.”
“I don’t feel like listening to any more of this.” Willow muttered.
“You won’t have to.” Buffy glanced at Dawn and smiled, then looked back at Willow and Xander. “I’ve been keeping the two of you safe time and time again, and it’s gotten me nowhere. All I’ve ever heard from either of you is how dumb I am or how horrible it is that I’m a girl that’s got more strength in one pinky than you have in your entire body. Don’t get... I’m... Xander, I’m grateful to you for saving my life, but I don’t need that kind of help anymore. I’m not saying I want to die or anything. I just feel like you expect me to be so grateful that I’ll overlook anything else you say or do. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not better than you guys. But you’re both so horrible to me that it’s not like it’s hard for me to say that I’m better than you.”
Xander stared at her in disbelief. “Wow. You really do have a superiority complex, don’t you? I brought you back to life, while your vampire ex sat there whimpering about how he couldn’t breathe so that he could save you. I’ve always stuck by you, even when you do stupid things like getting involved with Angel, or running away from home like a child, or trying to kill us because you like your fantasy world better than you like your real life. I keep giving you chances, because you were my hero. And we’re horrible to you? Really? Willow brought you back to life, Buffy. You wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for her!”
Dawn gave them both a cold smile. “Oh. Speaking of which.” She walked up to Willow and smacked her across the face. “That is for lying to us about what you’d been doing. That’s for ripping Buffy out of Heaven. That’s for being so goddamn full of yourself that you thought you were the be-all-end-all of the entire town, and that no one could ever be better than you. THAT is for being such a huge bitch that you managed to drive away the only woman that could have made you better. That’s for turning into someone we never knew.” She backed away again. “You’re not Willow Rosenberg. Not the one we met. You’re the selfish, self-satisfied, whackadoo bitch that took her place.”
“You need to leave.” Willow put her hand over her face, where Dawn’s handprint was still bright red.
“Yeah, yeah. We’re going. We just need to pack first.” Buffy took her cell phone out of her pocket and threw it to Xander. “I’m not going to need this anymore. I don’t really want to hear from you guys, anyway.” She turned toward the stairs. “Come on, Dawn.”
Dawn smirked. “Looks like you get your way after all, Darth Willow. No us. No Christmas. Go fuck yourself.” She tucked her hands into her pockets and followed Buffy to the second floor.
Buffy got her suitcase out of her closet and put it on her bed. She unzipped it and walked back over to the closet to get her clothes. “You know what sucks about this?” She glanced at Dawn. “That Spike wasn’t here to see that.”
Dawn looked down, smiling. “He would have loved it. He’d have been goading us on.” Her eyes lit up. “Ooh. He might have even asked if he could bite Xander.” Dawn touched Buffy’s shoulder. “But, you know... he was there, sort of. In a way.”
“Yeah.” Buffy smiled sadly.
Dawn pulled her hand from her pocket and dangled the object there in front of Buffy’s face, wiggling her eyebrows. “Silly Buffy. You know he taught me a thing or two.”
Buffy started to squeal, but put her hand over her mouth to muffle it. “Please, you got your thievery from me. He might have taught you a little, but you wouldn’t be as good if I wasn’t.”
Dawn giggled softly. “I credit both of you with my delinquency. You showed me how to get away with it. Spike showed me how to be quick and invisible.” She grinned widely. “He’d be proud of us. He’d be so proud.”
Buffy nodded. “All right, we’ll take her car. But we’ll drop it off somewhere, still in the state.”
Dawn raised an eyebrow. “Do we have to leave it in mint condition?”
Dawn bounced up and down lightly. “Yay!”
Andrew knocked on Buffy’s door. “It’s me. Andrew. I come in peace...”
Dawn quickly strode toward the door, yanked it open, and then tugged Andrew inside before leaning against the door and closing it again. “Hey!”
“I heard everything. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I simply had to go to the restroom.” Andrew sighed, wringing the hem of his shirt. “You’re both really leaving? Just like that? Forever?”
“You simply had to what? Who are you trying to be right now?” Buffy laughed. “Yeah, forever. Unless I forget something. But I might just buy a replacement whatever it is. Do you want to stay here with Xander and Willow? You could come with us.”
Dawn nodded, a half-smile on her face. “We really wouldn’t mind it. But we’ve got to get out of here, Andrew. They’re volatile. And no matter what they say...” Dawn closed her eyes, sighed, then turned to Buffy. “You know they’re full of it, right? As soon as we’re gone, they’re going to realize they have no one to push around anymore, and they’ll start looking for us again. We’re gonna need to seriously hide.”
“I’ve done it before. I can do it again.” Buffy nodded. “Andrew, go get your stuff. Hurry up. Five minutes. If you can’t fit your comic books and stuff, you’ll have to leave them.”
Andrew gasped, clutching his chest.. “My babies?”
“Tick tock.” Buffy replied, walking over to her dresser.
Andrew gave a curt nod before he ran back to his bedroom.
Dawn grinned at her sister. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
Andrew came out of his room less than five minutes later and headed downstairs. “By the way, Dawn... nice slap.”
Dawn bowed quickly, popping back up and shouldering her bags. “Thank you!” She turned to look at Willow and gave her an evil glare. “It was warranted. And it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.”
Buffy laughed as she walked downstairs behind Andrew. “We’re taking the geek.” She told Willow and Xander. “Have a nice life.”
Dawn waited until her sister had walked out the door before looking directly into Willow and Xander’s faces. “Don’t try to find us. I know you two. I know the way your minds work. And I know that as soon as you don’t have Buffy to use as a verbal punching bag anymore, you’re going to be looking for her all contrite, and sorry, and I know that you’ll be full of it.” She blinked once and glanced at Willow. “Remember when I threatened to let Spike wake up on fire? That is nothing -- nothing -- compared to what I will do to the both of you if you ever come near my sister again.” She paused, allowing the words to sink in, before she spun on her heel and walked toward the door, and gave a small grin. “I’ve never been so glad to say goodbye in my life.” She slammed the door shut behind her.