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Christmas Conditions

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Living Conditions". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy's looking forward to the perfect Christmas with Sam, but things don't go exactly as planned... Christmas addition to the Living Conditions 'verse.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Sam Winchester(Recent Donor)SweetChiFR1317,3205312,1381 Jan 121 Jan 12Yes
Written for the 2011 LJ Wishlist
Requested By: Alizamacina and Bunny_Chan85
Fandoms: BtVS/SPN
Characters: Buffy/Sam
Prompt: Both wished for a Living Conditions holiday fic.
Disclaimer: I own neither BtVS or SPN, I've written this purely for enjoyment.

Christmas Conditions

“Say hello to friends you know, and everyone you meet,” Sam heard Buffy singing with the radio as soon as he came in. “Oh, ho, the mistletoe- Oh! Mistletoe!

Sam stopped in the entrance to the living room and watched with a fond smile as his girlfriend bounced around the living room like she was scouting Father Christmas’s job. She had boughs of holly wrapped around her limbs, lights draped around her like a shawl and the hunk of mistletoe she was looking for stuck in her hair.

“You look like some kind of Christmas demon.”

“I prefer Christmas nymph,” she said, turning toward him with a crinkle of fake greenery and a clatter of lights. “Did you get it?”

He pulled the box out from behind his back as she rushed over. “It was the last one.”

Buffy squealed and snatched the glittery tinsel away from him, spinning around and smacking him in the face with a rogue branch of holly.

“Please, tell me you’re not going to use that,” a voice came from behind him. “It already looks like you puked Christmas spirit over every square inch of this place, Buffy. There’s no more room.”

Dawn’s voice was exasperated in an amused, sisterly way as she came to stand next to Sam and observe the room.

“There’s always room for tinsel,” Buffy said distractedly as she wandered around the room. “It’s like jell-o.”

Looking around, Sam couldn’t help but silently agree with Dawn. About the ‘no room’ part, not the puke part. Okay, maybe the puke part a little… But in a good way! Could puke be described in a good way? Hmm, it seemed he’d been living with Buffy long enough for her rambling thoughts to infect him. Point was, the house was full of Christmas decorations, but Sam found that he actually liked it. After a lifetime of Christmas’s that included just him, Dean, a couple of pathetic decorations and even more pathetic presents, it was nice to actually get to experience Christmas full throttle.

On top of all the regular decorations (lights, wreathes, boughs of holly and pine, candles, ribbons and bows in abundance), there was also a little snowy village set up in the dining room, filled with moving sledders and ice skaters, confetti snow and lit trees, music and magnetic dancing couples. A toy train actually ran from the kitchen to the living room carrying little bowls of candy. Dean would be in heaven when he got there…

Then there was the massive tree - which Buffy had redecorated in different colors three separate times before settling on doing it all in white and red. Sam hadn’t said anything about the... exuberance Buffy had shown for decorating, even though Dawn said he needed to. According to her, Buffy did occasionally have a holiday freak-out where she went overboard, but this was above and beyond anything that had happened before.

Sam blamed his father.

John’s decision to spend more time with his family hadn’t lasted much longer than his phone call with a promise to visit. He’d been distracted by a hunt before he’d even made it from L.A. to Stanford. Then he’d promised to be there for Thanksgiving - prodding Buffy into a frenzy that ended with part of the kitchen being burned and them eating pizza with Dawn, Xander, Dean and Faith Thanksgiving night as John, once again, was a no show. Now he’d promised to be there for Christmas. Sam wasn’t holding his breath. In fact, he would’ve told his father where to shove it had Buffy not snatched the phone from him and welcomed him with a kindness the man certainly didn’t deserve.

Since then he’d watched her turn the house into a winter wonderland half with a burning fury at his father that threatened painful retribution if he disappointed her, and half with fierce love at her childlike enthusiasm. The love won out at that moment as he watched her tensilize the room.

Walking up behind her, he took the remaining tinsel from her and did the part of the tree she was too short to reach.

“Thanks,” she said, leaning back against him and looking up with a grin.

“Weren‘t you looking for this?” He asked, spinning her around and plucking the mistletoe out of her hair before holding it above them.

“I was hoping you’d notice,” she said with a sly grin as he bent down to kiss her.

“Sneaky,” he said, kissing her again and again.

“Ugh, you guys are so cute it’s sickening. How about not rubbing all the happy couple-ness in the face of the perpetually single, huh?”

Buffy peeked around Sam to look at her sister. “Whose fault is that? You keep guys around an average of four hours before kicking them to the curb.”

“Four hours is more than enough to figure out if they annoy me,” Dawn said. “Listen, I just came over to tell you Xander’s in for Christmas dinner, so’s Willow, Kennedy and Giles. Andrew wants to come, too, but I haven’t given him an answer yet.”

“Andrew can come. And couldn’t you have called for that?” Buffy asked.

“Oh, I also came to steal these,” Dawn said, snatching a bowl of snow caps as they trundled by on the train before bolting out the front door.

Buffy shook her head. “You’d think she doesn’t have any money to by her own candy.”

“She told me the other day you’d put a bunch in her stocking so she didn’t want to spend her own money on something you were going to buy for her anyway.”

“Dawn logic strikes again,” Buffy said. “Hey, I’m going to check the house over one more time. Can I get you to water the tree?”

“Sure,” he said kissing her on top of the head before releasing her to continue her decoration explosion.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” Nat King Cole crooned on the radio a few minutes later as Sam laid under the tree, surrounded by the smell of pine. He heard Buffy come back into the room, humming along with the music and felt such a burst of warmth and happiness that he just had to lay there for a moment and absorb it.

Seeing Buffy’s feet do a little twirl not far from the tree, he slid out and pulled her to him for a dance. The lights clinked together and the holly poked him as they laughed and held each other close.

Everything was perfect.

*******

“No way, man,” Sam said flatly into his phone as he walked out of the grocery store.

“Come on, Sam,” Dean said, his voice firm. “You know evil doesn’t stop for the holidays. It’s not that far - you can meet me there, we can knock it out in a day and be back by Christmas Eve.”

“No, Dean. I’m not going. Buffy’s been working her ass off to get everything ready, I’m not running off for a hunt the day before everyone’s supposed to be here. We both know that hunts don’t always go according to plan - especially when you’re in a hurry.”

“She’s the Slayer, dude. She gets it. Her whole life has been about putting the good fight before social time-”

Exactly! She should at least get a perfect Christmas.”

“Are you sure this is about Buffy? Or is it about you wanting the perfect Christmas? You know what, don’t answer that, I’m not up for any touchy feely crap right now. I need to get on the road and get to Reno so I can kick this ghost’s ass and be at your place before Christmas. Either meet me there or don’t.”

Sam snapped his phone shut with a curse.

There was no way he was running off three days before Christmas. No way.

*******

“You’re what?!”

“I know,” Sam cringed. “It’s crazy. But if I don’t go, and something happens to him…”

All the guilt and worse case scenarios had assaulted him on the way back from the store. Dean tended to be reckless on the best of days - how would it be if he was mad at Sam and in a hurry while on the hunt?

“I’m going to kill him,” Buffy said thoughtfully as she wrapped a present on the kitchen island a little violently. “And take his Christmas present back. Oh! Or I could replace his Christmas present with something slimy or stinky…”

“I’m sorry. I really should just let him do it on his own...”

She sighed and sat the tape down. “No, it’s okay. I get it. I’m just being selfish. You should go spend some time with your idiot brother for Christmas. Just be careful. And make sure the two of you are back in time for you and Willow to work on dinner Christmas Eve, or else I’m going to get in there and make it.”

“Now, let’s not go to extremes,” he said, laughing as she swatted at him. “I’ll be back in time, don’t worry.”

*******

“What’s this?” Buffy asked, staring at the folder Dawn had just thrust in her hands.

“It’s a case. Without Sam here, you’ll get even more crazy. And if you start decorating the decorations I’ll have to lock you in a closet - no one wants a tinsel and sparkle light induced seizure for Christmas. So take the case, go catch yourself a puny human bad guy and before you know it, it’ll be Christmas and Sam will be back and everyone will be here and you can go back to being just regular crazy and not crazy crazy.”

“How thoughtful of you,” Buffy said dryly, flipping through the file.

Actually, this was a good idea. She’d been thinking about making Christmas cookies, so it was probably for the best that she find something else to keep her busy before she had a repeat of Thanksgiving.

“It’ll be good for you,” Dawn said. “You’ll get a little violence out and be nice and calm for Christmas. Speaking of, I talked to everyone and told them when to be here. Andrew’s bringing sweet potatoes, Giles is bringing the rolls and pumpkin pie, Xander’s bringing beer and eggnog. You have everything Sam and Willow will need for the ham and stuff right?”

“Yes. Everything’s ready for everyone else to cook in my house.”

“Don’t pout,” Dawn said briskly, grabbing her purse off the chair. “Remember Santa’s watching.”

*******

Buffy set out not long after Dawn left. This would only be her third FTA since she started her faux bounty hunting routine. The first had been with Sam and completely by accident. The second she’d actually looked for, but she ended up finding him in the first place she looked - his house. That was so anticlimactic that she hadn’t bothered with another one. Until now. She hoped it would be a little more exciting.

The case was pretty straightforward. Bert Aframian had been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, had gotten out on bail, then hadn’t shown for his court date. All Buffy had to do was track him down and hand him in at a police station. Part of her was excited to get out and maybe lightly kick a little criminal ass, but the other part couldn’t help but feel guilty about putting someone in jail two days before Christmas.

When she’d spotted in his file that the last place of residence he had listed was a hotel, she felt simultaneously better and worse. He wasn’t at home with a family, which meant she wasn’t taking him away from that, but it was also sad that he was in some hotel this close to Christmas.

Of course he wasn’t at the hotel in San Jose anymore when she got there. According to the clerk, he’d cleared out the day before. The more she searched, the less she found. The man was like a ghost - no one knew him, no one had seen him, no one had any idea where he might’ve gone. Her easy case was turning out to be a bust.

She turned the Christmas music up on the drive back to Palo Alto, trying to drown out the worries about dinner the next night and her first meeting with the infamous John Winchester. If he didn’t like her, it wasn’t the end of the world - Buffy knew Sam wouldn’t care about his father’s opinion of her. But still, she’d like things to go smoothly.

When she pulled into her drive, she realized this was asking too much. Things never went smoothly in her life. There, in the middle of her sizable front lawn, was Mrs. Stanowski, her stooped little stick figure setting up a huge inflatable Santa. Even Buffy drew the line somewhere with Christmas decorations, and a forty foot Santa in the front yard was crossing it. To make matters worse, the thing finished inflating just as she got out of the car, exposing its face. It’s evil, evil face. Santa should never have that expression. He was grinning madly with wild eyes, like he was about to come down your chimney to chop your family into little bits and stuff the remains into his bag to take home for a midnight snack. Buffy actually had to take a moment and lean against her car to fully take in the thing’s hideousness.

“Oh, Buffy!” Mrs. Stanowski chirped, noticing her now that she was done giving life to the monstrosity. “What do you think? I got it on sale!”

“It’s, uh, it’s- Why’s it in my yard?”

“Because your yard’s bigger, dear. Plus, the trees in my yard would hide him. Your trees are perfect for this, see how they frame him?”

Buffy thought it just made the scene more terrifying, like the huge Santa was stalking between the trees, plotting his covert murder operation while he spied on the neighborhood.

“Yeah,” she said slowly. “I see that. I, uh, have a case, so I’m going in now…”

“You have a case? On Christmas? Well, that’s just silly. You should be spending time with friends and family, not working. And with Sam! I remember my first Christmas with my Stan, God rest his soul. Christmas is a wonderful time to be young and in love.”

“Well, Sam’s out of town and no one’s coming until tomorrow,” Buffy said distractedly before asking the question her mind was really focused on. “So, your husband’s name was Stan Stanowski?”

“Mmmhmm,” she nodded, adjusting one of the hoses that kept Murder-Time Santa inflated. “I thought it was so catchy. He had a bit of a club foot, so he limped a little, but I was willing to overlook that since he had such a nice name.”

Buffy opened and closed her mouth a few times, but then decided that, like most things with Mrs. Stanowski, it was better to just accept it and move on. The thought she moved on to wasn’t much better though. It was one of those thoughts you’re better off not having but your brain spits out at you anyway. One that can’t be ignored once unleashed.

“What are you doing for Christmas, Mrs. Stanowski?”

“Oh, I’ll probably just drink some eggnog and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s kind of a little Christmas tradition for me.”

“Well, we’re having some people over tomorrow for a Christmas Eve dinner. You’re welcome to come if you want.”

Mrs. Stanowski looked so surprised and then genuinely pleased that Buffy felt guilty for not really wanting to ask.

“That would be lovely, dear,” she said softly. “Is there anything you’d like me to bring?”

“I think we’ve got it covered,” Buffy said, but seeing the woman’s good mood evaporate a little, added, “But if you’re not too busy, I’m sure everyone would love some of those cookies of yours.”

Mrs. Stanowski brightened immediately and nodded, “Of course, of course. I better get going then - have to make sure I have all the ingredients. I’ll see you tomorrow, dear.”

“See ya, Mrs. Stanowski,” Buffy called, watching her hobble away in excitement.

Buffy headed inside, keeping her eyes off the nightmare inducing Santa and patting herself on the back for her plethora of Christmas spirit. In the kitchen, she grabbed a soda from the fridge and laid the file out on the counter, pausing to study the face in the photograph. She sipped at her drink as she looked at it thoughtfully, for some reason struck by the feeling there was something almost… familiar about him. Bert Aframian was in his early fifties, but wore it well with his dark hair, dark eyes and stubble. A nice face, but one Buffy was sure she hadn’t seen before, so she brushed off the feeling of familiarity and pulled out her phone.

“Do you think Sam will like a sweater? It’s a nice sweater though. Pretty. No, manly. Manly, not pretty,” Willow rushed as soon as she picked up her phone.

“I’m sure he’ll love it, Will,” Buffy said, blinking in confusion at the barrage. “What’s with the panic voice?”

“It’s just, I’m trying to get all this stuff together before we leave and It’s my first time meeting the new boyfriend. What if he doesn’t like me? And Kennedy, what if he doesn’t like her? Christmas makes her snarky, you know.”

“Kennedy’s always snarky, that’s nothing new and we’ve mentally prepared Sam for that. He’s heard so much about you that it’s like he already knows you anyway. Knows you and likes you. He just needs to meet you now.”

“Okay, okay,” Willow said, taking a deep breath. “We’ve just been down here in South America so long, I feel a little out of the loop. And now we’re jumping back in the loop. And he’s mad at his dad for skipping out on Thanksgiving, but I kinda skipped out, too. What if-”

“Willow,” Buffy interrupted sternly. “Everything is fine. It’s all going to stay fine. Sam will like you. He’ll like- well, tolerate Kennedy. Papa Winchester will show and be a wonderful, supportive father, because it’s Christmas. I won’t attempt any cooking, so the kitchen will stay fire free. Andrew will refrain from regaling us with tales about hobbits or the force, Xander won’t make any sex jokes at the dinner table and Mrs. Stanowski won’t make up absurd stories about me and Sam’s sex life. It’s Christmas and it’s all going to be fine.”

There was a beat of silence before Willow said, “I think you might need to slay something soon.”

Buffy let out a gusty sigh. “I know. I’m wound a little tight these days. But that’s actually why I’m calling. No slayage, but Dawn gave me a bounty case to work on. I’m hoping it’ll help. But the guy’s nowhere to be found, so you think you could take a minute to track his credit cards for me?”

“Well, sure, I guess. But if you need to unwind, isn’t Sam good for that? Like, sexy-times unwinding?”

Buffy laughed. “Will! Don’t think about our sexy-times! And Sam’s brother actually talked him into going on a hunt, so he’s gone until tomorrow.”

“And I’m suddenly glad I didn’t get Sam’s brother anything...” Willow said before taking down the information she needed from Buffy. She promised to call when she found something and had just hung up when the phone rang again, Sam’s name flashing across the front.

“Please tell me you’re done and on your way back already,” Buffy answered.

“Not quite,” Sam said slowly.

“That better not be bad-news-voice I’m hearing.”

“Well, turns out Dean’s research on this job was less him actually researching it and more of him just hearing about it from some guy.”

“So what’s that mean?”

“That we might be here a little longer than I thought.”

“Sam,” Buffy growled out, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Don’t worry,” he hurried on. “I’ll still be back in time for dinner, Willow might have to get someone else to help in the kitchen though.”

“You can’t let the witch cook our food on her own, Sammy!” Dean called in the background.

“Your brother’s really trying my Christmas spirit here, Sam. I’m having some very un-Christmas-like thoughts right now. Thoughts that involve rusty pliers and duct tape.”

“Okay, I know it sounds bad, but the job really doesn’t seem that hard,” Sam rushed to tell her. “We just need to suss out the details and we’ll be done. Just, uh, redecorate the tree or put some more lights outside or something.”

“Dawn said no more decorating, but she gave me a case to work on. I guess that’ll give me an outlet for the violence I’m feeling against Dean right now.”

“You’re working on a case?”

She made a face at the tone he was using. She should’ve kept her mouth shut, she knew he’d react like this. He hated the bounty hunting gig and the fact that he wasn’t there would only make it worse. But still… It was kind of nice (also in a very un-Christmas-like way) to be getting him back a little for going on this hunt.

“Yep, some double murderer slash rapist that targets blond women. I figure it’ll be easy since I’m his type - maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll just come to me,” she said innocently.

There was a strangled sound on the other end of the line, then some controlled nose breathing followed by the some background sounds she couldn’t place until she heard Dean say, “Dude, why are you packing?”

Oh, it was so tempting to let the lie settle and have Sam come rushing back (even though it was a little annoying that he had complete confidence in her dealing with demons but not human bad guys), but she knew she couldn’t do it. Not only would he be pissed if he came back and found out she lied, but what if something really did happen to his idiot brother because Sam wasn’t there?

“Stop packing, Sam,” she said. “I’m kidding. It’s just a simple weapons charge and I can’t find the guy anyway.”

“A weapons charge?”

Oops, guess that really wasn’t confidence inspiring.

“You and Dean carry around guns all the time without a permit, maybe this guy’s just like that - totally paranoid.”

“Hey!”

“Kidding again,” she snickered. “Did you miss the part where I can’t find him anyway? Plus, I still have to go to the bakery to pick up some pie for tomorrow and figure out what to do about the giant evil Santa Mrs. Stanowski decided was the perfect in our front yard.”

“Why don’t you just relax, Buffy? You’ve been running around like crazy for the last week. Take a break, watch some TV or something.”

“I’m fine, excess Slayer energy just oozing out of me, even. Don’t need a break.”

“Oh yeah? It’s almost three in the afternoon - have you even remembered to eat today?”

“Yes, I did actually.”

“What?”

“…a bowl of Lucky Charms and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” she mumbled. “But so what? That has all kinds of good, healthy stuff - I’ve got grains from the non-marshmallow bits and my bread was wheat. The jelly was grape – so there’s fruit. Peanuts are… I don’t know, but something probably good for you. All my food groups were in there.”

“Meat?”

“Vegetarians don’t eat meat.”

“You didn’t eat any vegetables either.”

“Okay, mom, I’ll stop on the way home from the bakery and pick something up? Happy?”

“No, I’d be happy if I was there with you. Making you eat healthy food in person instead of over the phone.”

Buffy melted a little. At least until she heard Dean snicker in the background, “That’s not all you’d be having her eat if you were there in person.”

“Your brother’s a pig and I’m going to hurt him for Christmas,” she said cheerily before hanging up.

She was still clutching the phone, imagining ways of torturing Dean, when it rang again.

“You tell your brother that I got him this really cool demon killing gun for Christmas and I’m taking it back since guy’s that talk about their brother’s girlfriends like that are automatically put on the naughty list and get coal for Christmas. But he’s not getting coal either. Coal’s too good for him! And there will be NO PIE.”

“Um, I don’t have a brother, but if I did, I’d be sure to pass that along,” Willow said.

“Crap! Sorry, Willow! I just got off the phone with Sam and- you know what, never mind. It’s stupid. Did you find anything on Mr. Aframian?”

“Actually, yes. He’s right there in Palo Alto. He used his card at a hotel only about ten miles from you this morning and just a minute ago at a bakery on El Camino Real.”

Well, looked like she was going to the bakery anyway. Maybe she’d buy pie and just not let Dean have any. Or poison his piece…

She grabbed her jacket and a pair of handcuffs and was out the door in seconds. Half of her was hoping he’d put up a fight, the other half was feeling bad that this guy was living out of hotels during Christmas time. And apparently buying pie. The sad image of him alone in his hotel room, eating pie on Christmas day, watching A Christmas Story almost had her abandoning her search, but as she rounded a corner by the bakery and spotted him walking along with his pie box, she decided spending Christmas in jail would be only slightly less depressing - he could handle it.

She pulled the car over to the curb and jumped out.

“Excuse me, Mr. Aframian?”

He didn’t even glance in her direction so she jogged up behind him and tugged on his jacket lightly.

“Mr.Aframian?” She repeated.

He stopped and glanced at her hand on his jacked with a dark look, making her think violence really would be in the cards today.

“You missed your court date, Mr. Aframian,” she said, going for professional and relaxed. "I need to take you back to the police station so you can reschedule it.”

A look of surprise came over his face, then he smiled sheepishly, previous hostility wiped away. “Oh, I completely forgot about that. Listen, I’m supposed to be at my son’s for dinner tomorrow, and we both know that they’ll throw me in jail because I forgot that stupid date. I haven’t seen my son in a while, and it’s Christmas and all….”

She wasn’t sure if it was worse or better knowing he wouldn’t be spending Christmas alone. She did know it made her feel like a giant ass to try and take him in right then.

“Okay, why don’t we just go in and we’ll get you bonded right back out again,” she said, wracking her brain for all the details about bail bonds Dawn had drilled into her. “That way you’re not a wanted man and can still spend the holiday with your- oomph!”

He shoved the pie at her, dislodging the top and sending the contents splattering all over her chest and neck. Then he took off. The pie tin clattered to the sidewalk as she watched his back disappear around a corner. She wiped a finger through the mess on her front and stuck it in her mouth. Lemon meringue. Yummy. Sure she’d waited long enough for her initial anger to dissipate a little so she wouldn’t seriously hurt him, she sprinted after him.

She caught up to him two streets over, in front of a house that was even more decorated than her own. Big, glowing angels trumpeted on the front lawn next to a neon Jesus and little blinking sheep. Outlines of Santa and his reindeer were there too, apparently also paying their respects to Jesus. Big candy canes lined the walkway and stars hung from the trees. Fake confetti-like snow sprinkled down from something on the roof, coating everything in white, but not remotely looking like actual snow.

With a flying tackle, she landed on his back in a pile of the white whatever, which turned out to be kinda slippery. In a move that was surprisingly quick for someone Mr. Aframian’s size and age, he twisted out of her grasp and rolled to his feet.

“Listen, Bert,” was as far as she got before she was being whacked with something.

“OW!” She yelled, jumping back. Her mouth fell open when she saw what he was holding. “Baby Jesus?! You hit me with baby Jesus?!”

At least he had the sense to look slightly ashamed. “Not my best moment. But I’m not missing this dinner.”

“You hit me with baby Jesus,” Buffy growled, dropping into a crouch. “You’re going down.”

She ducked under the next swing of the neon savior and snatched a candy cane from the ground, hooking it around Mr. Aframian’s leg and dropping him with a gruff curse. But the man wasn’t going down so easy. He was up in a blink, throwing a handful of the wannabe snow in her face in a dirty move. Buffy coughed and stuck her tongue out as the taste of something similar to how wet dog smelled filled her mouth. Her opponent took the opportunity to pounce on her, wrestling her to the ground, with a grunted, “Sorry ‘bout this,” as he attempted to tie her up with a strand of nearby lights.

But Buffy was having none of that. She was passed irritated and into pissed territory now. She’d been slathered with meringue, coated with fake snow (which was leaving her feeling a little like school paste), beaten with baby Jesus and was now being tied up with Christmas lights. No more Miss Nice Slayer.

She yanked her arm out of his grasp with a strength she’d been trying not to use thus far. Then, as he was blinking down at her in shock, she punched him right in the face. Blood spurted out of his nose and his eyes went wide before rolling up in his head before he slumped over to the side. She shoved him the rest of the way off of her in irritation and yanked her cuffs from the back pocket of her jeans.

Once she had him cuffed face down on the fake-snowy ground (let’s see how he liked the taste of wet dog), she tried to wipe the pasty mess off of her while wondering what she should do with Mr. Aframian now that she’d caught him. She could drag him the two streets over to her car and drive to the police station, or she could drag him the one block west, straight to the police station, and then have to walk all the way back to her car afterwards.

“You turned out to be a real pain in the ass,” she muttered as she bent down and pulled him over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

Five minutes later, Mr. Aframian was starting to stir, but she was already at the police station. The room full of milling cops went still and quite as she sauntered in and roughly dropped her captive on his feet, where he stood swaying groggily as he took in the situation. When he did, he let out a defeated curse and gave her a look that was half impressed, half annoyed.

After Buffy explained the situation, the cop at the desk broke the silence by laughing and shaking his head.

“I have to admit, I think most of us were hoping never to see you in here again. But I take that back now. If this is going to be a regular thing, then I hope we see a lot more of you, Miss Summers.”

Buffy didn’t have to ask how he knew her name or what he meant by that. She remembered perfectly well the last time she was in this station - Dawn under arrest for assault and her trying to charm, then threaten, then annoy them into letting her sister go.

She gave the cop her dirtiest look and held her head high as she marched from the station, covered in crusty, drying fake snow stuff mixed with pie and a big lump on her forehead from being smacked with Jesus. She didn’t bother to turn around when she heard one of the cops taking Mr. Aframian away saying something about a girl named Buffy, of all things, being able to carry a grown man around like that. If she had she would’ve seen the complete look of shock that came over his face.

*******

It was four o’clock on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and no one was there. Not one person. Okay, that wasn’t quite true. Mrs. Stanowski was there, but she was asleep on the couch with her mouth hanging open, so she didn’t count. She’d tried calling Sam first, but he hadn’t answered, so she was angry and worried. Then she’d called Willow, who’d still been in South America and said that Dawn had told her dinner was supposed to be on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. Which had led to her calling her sister, who confirmed that yes, she’d told everyone Christmas Day, not Eve. But Sam, Dean and Mr. Winchester still all knew it was supposed to be Christmas Eve, and none of them were there. It was just her, Mrs. Stanowski and Evil St. Nick, who she was starting to feel a strange fondness for in her melancholy.

She sat staring at the Christmas tree as the radio continued to play in the background.

Oh what a Christmas to have the blues,” the Eagles sang. “My baby’s gone and I have no friends, to wish me greetings once again-

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Buffy huffed, flinging a throw pillow at the radio and knocking it over and off.

She knew she was being silly. Everyone was still coming, just a day later than she’d planned on. But still, she’d been looking forward to having them there that night and the disappointment was strong. Plus, between the pie and fake snow, her clothes from the day before had been ruined. And the ugly bruise on her forehead had yet to disappear, making her wonder if Jesus inflicted wounds were immune to Slayer healing.

She was worried about Sam and Dean, but wasn’t going to go into panic/round-up-the-cavalry mode just yet. Not answering the phone once didn’t mean disaster. Twice though… Then there was Papa Winchester. She couldn’t help but wonder if his constant ditching on visiting Sam had something to do with her. She was still sinking in a gloomy blob of Christmas blues when the phone rang.

“’llo,” she muttered, her cheek resting in the palm of her hand and her elbow on her knee in classic pouting position. She could pout if she wanted to; it wasn’t like anyone was there to see it after all.

“Buffy?” Sam’s voice came over the line, lightening her mind on one worry at least.

After a rushed explanation of numerous spirits and a mass grave, Sam spewed apologies and promised to be back in the morning. Buffy gloomily told him that was fine, no one else had shown up anyway. Yes, she was being childish, but she didn’t care. His sympathy after her explanation made her feel a little better and she told him to be careful and that she’d see him in the morning.

After checking to make sure Mrs. Stanowski was actually asleep and not dead (because that wouldn’t be too far-fetched the way things were going), she got some cookies and milk from the kitchen, reset the radio back to the Christmas music and sat back down in a chair in the living room – determined to restore some of her Christmas spirit even if she had to stare at the damned tree all night.

*******

A scream snapped her upright the next morning, still in the chair in the living room and with a wicked crick in her neck. She looked around blearily to find that Mrs. Stanowski was gone and the throw from the back of the couch was covering her. That was about as far as her sense of observation went. Luckily, her Slayerness was still alert even when she wasn’t and pinpointed the sound to the front yard. She rushed outside, shielding her eyes from the early morning light, and found Kennedy and Willow on the front lawn. Kennedy looking horrified at the huge Santa, who, granted, was particularly terrifying lit in the fiery orange of the morning sun. When her eyes landed on Buffy, her expression went from freaked-out to pissed off in a second flat.

“Hey, she’s zapped us some weird places,” Kennedy snarled defensively. “It really could’ve been some dimension with giant crazed Santas.”

“Kennedy,” Willow whined, looking embarrassed.

“What? It’s true. I didn’t say you did it on purpose. It’s kinda cute sometimes. Just not when creepy things, like that fucked up Santa, are involved. What the hell is that anyway?” She asked, turning her attention back on Buffy. “I mean, I knew you had questionable taste, but that’s just-”

“Hey, lay off Santa,” Buffy said with narrowed eyes. “If we can put up with your sour face, you can put up with his.”

“Buffy,” Willow whined, closing her eyes.

Buffy and Kennedy glared at each other a moment before Kennedy shrugged. “Whatever. Merry Christmas. And you look like crap.”

“That,” Buffy cringed, patting her hair. “Is something we can actually agree on. Come on, let’s get inside. I need coffee. And a shower.”

After getting caffeinated and clean, Buffy was feeling better about life in general. Helping things along was the fact that Sam was waiting for her when she stepped out of the bathroom into their room. She wanted to be mad, she really did, but seeing him there, wearing his puppy eyes, looking all tired and scruffy, all she felt was relief that he was back.

Of course, his eyes went right to The Bruise of Holiness on her forehead.

“What happened?” He asked, coming up to her and tilting her head back so he could see it better.

“It’s just a bump. Got into a scuffle with the FTA. No big. What about you? No bumps or bruises to report?”

His eyes lingered on the bruise for a second before he met her eyes and gave her a tired smile.

“Too many to mention. But nothing serious.”

“I’ll be inspecting your entire body for myself later on,” she said seriously, looking up at him from under her lashes. “Just to be sure.”

He gave her that heart-stopping smile she loved so much. “Going to unwrap me like a Christmas present?”

“If you’re lucky,” she grinned, stepping around him to grab her sweater before she went to unwrapping now instead of later.

“So, my dad’s not here,” he ventured as she pulled the sweater on.

“No, he never showed,” she said. “I’m sorry, Sam.”

“You’re sorry? I’m sorry. You went to all this trouble. Again. And he didn’t show up. Again.”

“I didn’t go to all this trouble for him,” she said in surprise. “I did it for you. So you could have the big super Christmas-y Christmas you never got growing up. I’m sorry because your father should be here for that.”

Sam got that sappy look on his face that Dean always teased him about but made Buffy feel all melty inside. Pulling her into his arms, he kissed the top of her head.

“I love you.”

She hugged him tight and breathed in deep. “I love you, too. And you smell like dead bodies, so that’s really saying something.”

“Oh crap,” he said pulling away and rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry about that. We kinda got trapped in a mausoleum all night. I’d better hop in the shower.”

“Probably a good idea,” she said, pulling him in for a quick kiss (she didn’t think he could ever stink so bad she wouldn’t want his lips on hers), then shoved him toward the bathroom.

Her already lifted spirits went higher as she headed down the stairs and heard Xander and Dean fawning over the goodie loaded train, Dawn snidely telling Kennedy that her outfit looked cheap, Willow and Giles debating the values of having the stuffing in the turkey versus out, and Faith and Mrs. Stanowski talking about things best left unsaid.

She had to detour from joining the festivities as the doorbell rang just as she reached the bottom of the stairs. Opening the front door, she found Mr. Aframian standing on the other side. With two black eyes, but shaved, showered and wearing dress pants and a button up shirt, she hardly recognized him as the same scruffy man from the day before. She blinked at him a moment in shock, then eyed the pie in his hands suspiciously. Just as she was about to ask what the hell he was doing there, Dean came up behind her.

“Dad! You made it!” He said, the smile evident in his voice. He shouldered by a frozen Buffy and gave his dad a quick, manly hug, then turned back toward her.

“This is Buffy, dad,” he said. “Sam’s girl. Buffy, this is our dad, John.”

“Nice to meet you, Buffy,” John said, dark eyes boring into hers as he stuck out the hand not holding the pie.

“You, too,” she squeaked, putting a numb hand in his own.

“Oh man, you brought pie,” Dean gushed.

“Sure did, and it wasn’t easy getting it. This time of year and all,” he said, shooting a glance at Buffy. “Why don’t you go put it in the kitchen, son.”

John stepped inside and handed the pie off to Dean as Buffy shut the door behind him. As soon as Dean was gone, she let all the shame she felt show.

“Oh my god,” she said quietly. “I am so sorry. I had no idea. I mean, if I’d known-”

John surprised her by laughing. “That goes both ways. Honestly, it makes me feel a little better about you kicking my ass - knowing it was the Slayer and not just some pretty little blond slip of a girl. How about we start over as John and Buffy instead of Bert and the bounty hunter? I think I have enough work in front of me getting back on Sam’s good side without him knowing I hit his girlfriend in the face with a neon Jesus yesterday.”

Buffy winced at the thought of what Sam’s reaction to that would be.

“Yeah, probably should keep that quiet.”

The two of them started toward the kitchen and he said, “I’m just sorry a brawl in a winter wonderland was our first impression of each other. I would’ve liked to have met under better circumstances.”

“Me too,” Buffy said.

She was cut off from saying more as they got closer to the kitchen and could hear Dean yelling at Andrew for fondling his leather jacket and Mrs. Stanowski asking about the mechanics of lesbian sex.

Buffy looked up at John and gave a shrug. “Actually, I think it was better we met that way. Maybe you’ll be better prepared for the insanity now.”

John gave a deep laugh and slung an arm over her shoulders, still heading toward the kitchen instead of running the other way, much to her relief.

After all the disappointment and mishaps, Buffy had a feeling this would turn out to be the best Christmas yet.

The End

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