A Buffy Christmas Carol
by Adam Windsor
Disclaimers: All Buffy characters are (c) Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy and probably a whole mess of other people. No infringement of copyright intended. Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' is available from http://www.gutenberg.net, should you wish to read the original.
Archive: Go right ahead. Just let me know, please
Spoilers: Up to "Into the Woods" (Buffy season 5) and "Guise will be Guise" (Angel season 2)
Summary: This is not actually a response to the challenge, but someone I know asked for a 'goppy B/F love story'.
Here 'tis. It's even seasonal, too.
Rating: PG-13 (MPAA) for f/f concepts
"Bed!" Buffy repeated firmly, resolutely blocking the bottom of the stairs as she did so.
"Oh come on!" Dawn bounced up and down on the third step. "You know Mom will let us open another present if we nag her enough."
"You know the rules." The slayer wagged a finger, "One present only on Christmas Eve. All the rest to wait 'til morning. It's not my fault the present you opened was a CD Encyclopaedia."
"I thought it was an N'Sync CD." Her sister pouted.
"Like Mom or I would ever let *that* in the house." She broke into a grin, unable to maintain her stern demeanour. "C'mon, squirt. It's time for bed, and you know it."
"You aren't going to bed." Dawn protested, unconvincingly.
"No. I'm going on patrol instead." Buffy shrugged, "That's hardly my idea of Christmas cheer, Dawn. Vampires aren't known for sharing Egg Nog."
The younger Summers' sighed theatrically, and looked set to continue the argument. However, she abruptly clamped her mouth shut as their mother emerged from the kitchen.
"It's time you were in bed, young lady." She told Dawn firmly, suppressing a smile at the thankful glance she got from Buffy. "Now do as your sister says, or Santa may take away all your presents tonight."
Dawn rolled her eyes,
"Mom, I stopped believing in Santa over five years ago."
"For 'Santa', read 'Mom'." Buffy quipped, giving her sister a gentle push to set her on her way to bed. "Besides, this is Sunnydale. Anything could happen. Even on Christmas Eve."
Buffy groaned, fractionally opening her eyes as someone gently shook her by the shoulder. It felt like she had only been asleep for a few minutes.
"Go away, Dawn." She mumbled, "It's too early for presents."
Blearily, the Slayer focused on the clock beside her bed, cursing softly as she saw the blinking display read "12:00". They must have just had a power cut.
"It's not your sister, Slayer." A familiar voice informed her jauntily.
"Whistler?" she sat up, drawing her covers to her chest. Sure enough, the squirrel-like demon stood beside her bed, his battered hat firmly planted upon his head, as always.
"The one and only." He grinned, "Here to show you some things you need to see."
"Couldn't it wait?" Buffy yawned, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, "It's the middle of the night, and Dawn will be banging on my door the instant the sun comes up."
"I'm sorry about this, Slayer." The demon shrugged, "I for one didn't think we should get all Dickensian on ya. But the PTB have a strange sense of humour, at times."
"Dickensian?" the blonde frowned, "What are you talking about?"
"You must know Charles Dickens?" Whistler pushed back the brim of his hat, "If nothing else, you will have been made to read one of his books at High School."
"High School and I were only passing acquaintances." Buffy observed dryly. "Now are you going to tell me what this is about or am I going to kick your pervy behind out of my room?"
"Easy, Slayer." The demon raised his hands placatingly, "I'm just doing my job. The PTB decided it was time for you to do the Christmas Carol thing."
"Christmas Carol? I don't sing."
"No, like the book." Whistler saw her blank look and sighed, "The Muppets did a movie of it with Michael Caine. Did you at least see that?"
"Oh yeah. It was pretty cool." Buffy nodded, then frowned, "But . .. . he was this mean old man. I'm nothing like that! I've never even said 'Bah Humbug' in my life!"
"But you have made mistakes in your life. Some that it is too late to take back . . . others that can still be corrected."
"Couldn't it have waited until morning? What time is it anyway?"
"No time at all." Whistler paused, "And all of them at once."
"Great. Riddles." Buffy grimaced, "Why can't things ever be straightforward with you people? You could just show up, say 'Buffy, this is what you should do to fix things up' and leave. But no . . . we have to have the mysterious forewarning instead. It's really irritating."
Whistler's answering shrug was unapologetic,
"In this case, we need to show you. If we just told you, you would never believe us. Trust me on this."
"Fine." The blonde sighed, started to get out of bed, and thought better of it. "You can at least turn around while I get dressed."
"Sure thing, Slayer." The demon did as she asked.
"So what was with all that mumbo jumbo about time?" Buffy asked as she pulled on a white t-shirt and some jeans.
"The Powers That Be have taken you out of the flow of time." Whistler answered, his back still turned to her, "That's why none of the clocks are working."
"They've taken me out of *time*? What are they up to? You can turn around now." The only item of clothing Buffy still had to put on was her boots.
"From here, we can visit any point in time. You know, the whole Christmas Past, Present and Future deal. Just like the movie."
"You mean we can time travel?" the Slayer asked, a little awed.
"Not the way you're thinking of." Whistler shook his head. "Remember in the movie, Scrooge and his guides could see what was happening, but could not influence it, or been seen by those they were watching. That's how it will be for us. Except that for your guide, you're stuck with me."
"At least I won't have to learn three different names." Buffy quipped, with a small shrug. "I guess the quickest way to get this over is just to let you do it So when do we start?"
"Two years ago . . ."
"Christmas Past." Whistler gestured grandly.
"Congratulations." Buffy's tone was dry, "You've taken us from my room to the front lawn. I'm very impressed." She broke off as the front door opened and she saw herself run out, a look of deep concern on her face.
Two people stood in the doorway, watching her leave. On the left was her mother. On the right was a dark-haired figure she had done her best to forget.
"Yes." Whistler nodded. "You remember this Christmas Eve, I'm sure. Angel needed you, and so you went to save him, leaving your mother under the other Slayer's protection."
"A mistake that I never made again. Why are we still here? Shouldn't we be following, uh, me?"
"Why would we do that? You already know what happened to you." The demon pointed at the house, where the door had just closed. "What you need to see is what happened here."
"Nothing happened." Buffy frowned, "I came back and Mom and Dawn were fine –"
"Dawn wasn't here." Whistler reminded her, "These are the real events, not the ones that you currently remember."
Buffy shivered slightly. Reminders that her sister was not a real person made her uncomfortable. Dawn had come to mean a great deal to her in the past few months; to mean something as a person, not just as a great prize in the battle between light and dark.
"So how do we get in?" she asked, "If we can't affect what we're seeing? It's not like we can knock. And even if we could, they won't hear us any more than they see us, right?."
"That's why you have me here." The demon smirked. He gestured, and they suddenly stood in the living room, watching Faith sit on the couch and devour an over-sized turkey sandwich.
"Look at that!" Buffy protested, "she's getting crumbs everywhere! And she's got her feet on the table! Mom never lets me do that!"
"You and Faith aren't the same person." Whistler answered quietly, "Even if you do have the same job. Your mother realised that. Don't you?"
"Don't give me the 'poor Faith' routine." The blonde answered as she watched her mother return to the room. "I did everything I could to help her."
Joyce tapped Faith's boots, and the brunette hurriedly removed them from the table, a guilty look sneaking across her face. Her mouth moved, evidently offering an apology that Joyce waved away.
"Why can't we hear anything?" Buffy frowned.
"You think this out of time stuff is easy?" Whistler raised his eyebrows, "Sound can't reach us. It's too slow, too tightly bound to the moment and place it was formed. You won't feel cold or heat or pain, either, while you are here."
"Then what is this going to accomplish?" the Slayer snapped, "At least Michael Caine got to hear what was going on in his visions. How am I supposed to 'learn' anything if I can't hear what's being said? Not that I'd want to know any more about Faith than I already do, anyway."
"One of the things your Watcher taught you was how to see with your ears." Whistler remarked, reminding Buffy of her encounter with an invisible girl during her first year in Sunnydale, "All you have to do now is learn to listen with your eyes."
"I knew I shouldn't have agreed to this." Buffy scowled, then sighed at the sharp look the demon gave her, "I'm sorry. Seeing Faith really messes with my head."
Whistler nodded sympathetically as Joyce laughed soundlessly at some remark of Faith's. The brunette was sitting well forward in the chair, her hands clasped between her knees. It was a nervous-looking posture, but as Joyce laughed the dark Slayer seemed to relax, leaning back into the couch as an answering smile grew on her face.
Then suddenly the brunette was on her feet, a stake in hand. She stood, poised and alert, a frown of concentration on her face.
Despite herself, Buffy yelped, scared for her mother. Whistler laid a hand on her arm.
"Easy, Slayer. You came home and your mother was safe and sound, remember?"
The blonde nodded dumbly, her eyes on Faith. What was going on? Her mother and the brunette had never mentioned an attack occurring while she had been helping Angel.
Joyce Summers began to stand, but Faith held out a hand, gesturing for her to stay where she was, and the older woman reluctantly sat down again. Sliding a hand inside her jacket, the brunette produced a cross and passed it to Buffy's mother, saying something as she did so. Then the dark slayer moved across the room, seeming to pass straight through Whistler as she did so.
"Where is she going?" Buffy hissed, turning to go after Faith, who was now slowly creeping up the staircase.
"Let's find out." Whistler gestured as he had before, and the two of them were suddenly standing in the upstairs hallways.
"My room!" Buffy pointed to where the door of her bedroom was standing half-open, light spilling into the hallway. "I turned the light off and closed my door. Someone's in there!"
Faith had evidently come to the same conclusion, because she suddenly surged down the hallway, this time passing through Buffy, who jumped with surprise.
"Why didn't you warn me how creepy that feels?" she demanded of Whistler, but did not wait for an answer, instead hurrying into her room behind the brunette.
Inside the room, Dawn stood with a large, gift-wrapped box in her hands and a guilty expression on her face. Faith stood facing the younger girl, arms folded, a grin quirking at the corners of her mouth.
"I knew it!" Buffy exclaimed, "I *knew* Dawn went into my room that night to look for presents! She swore she hadn't! I am *so* going to kill her."
Abruptly, she frowned and turned to Whistler, who had just arrived and was staring at Dawn with a stunned look on his face.
"I thought you said that Dawn wouldn’t be here?"
The demon shrugged, his expression showing he was as confused as her,
"I guess those monks made Dawn more real than they realised."
Buffy smiled. She found that idea oddly reassuring. Her sister might drive her crazy sometimes, but she loved Dawn nonetheless, and didn't want to lose her.
Dawn said something, blushing deeply, and Faith laughed soundlessly, then gestured with her stake. The younger girl nodded slowly, and stuffed the box she was holding deep into the back of Buffy's wardrobe.
"Faith claimed Dawn never left her sight all night!" the blonde Slayer muttered to herself, barely resisting the urge to stamp her foot. She bet her Mom had known all about this, too.
As Buffy spoke, Dawn scurried toward the door, then turned and asked something of Faith, her expression apprehensive. The brunette gave her a sly grin and shook her head slowly, eliciting a broad, thankful smile from the younger Summers' daughter.
To Buffy's surprise, her sister then walked over and hugged Faith gratefully. For a moment, the brunette slayer seemed as stunned as her blonde counterpart, but then she tentatively hugged Dawn in return, her dark eyes seeming to gaze far away.
This was too much for Buffy.
"Get away from my sister, you psycho!" this time she really did stamp her foot, barely aware that the action caused no sound.
The blonde was just about to leap at Faith, despite the fact that she couldn't actually touch the brunette, when the world of two years prior faded before her eyes, and Buffy and Whistler stood once more in her room, where the clock slowly blinked "12:00".
"Slayer . . ."
"I said, get out." The blonde snapped, turning to glare at the demon who was supposed to be her guide, "I don't know what your bosses think they're going to achieve with this . . . this . . . " words failed her, "but I'm not playing along any more."
"You've got no choice, now." Whistler shrugged apologetically, "This is a one way journey, You can't turn back."
"Fine." Buffy more hissed the word than spoke it. "Then let's get it over with. But if that bitch ever touches my sister again, I really will kill her."
"Wlecome to Christmas Present." Whistler announced.
Buffy took in the plain grey walls that surrounded them.
"A prison?" she sighed, "Faith again, right?"
"Yeah." The demon shrugged off her hostile glance, "I don't decide what we see, Slayer, I just do what the PTB say."
"Let's get this over with." The blonde muttered caustically, "Where is she?"
"That's her cell." Whistler pointed a short distance down the corridor. Buffy walked slowly toward it, stopping when she could see inside.
Faith sat on the pillow at the head of her bed, her arms wrapped around her knees, which were drawn up to her chest. The girl's hair hung over her face and arms, but the blonde knew instantly that it was her darker counterpart.
Set in the wall was a small, barred window. Through it, Buffy caught a glimpse of pale sky, streaked with grey clouds.
"It's three o'clock in the afternoon on Christmas Day." Whistler said from behind her, "Visiting time for the inmates' families."
"Yeah?" the blonde's tone wavered between harsh and tired as she fought an unexpected moment of sympathy for the other girl. She wondered if the prison was as silent in reality as it was for her. If Faith was the only prisoner not to be visited by loved ones. "Well when you push away everyone who tries to help you, you end up alone."
"Yeah." The demon's agreement surprised her. "Alone in jail. Or alone in the city, waiting tables at a dead end diner."
"Don't *ever* compare me to her." The Slayer rounded on Whistler, her face set with a furious glare. "We are nothing alike."
The demon blanched and took a half step back, then shrugged as if to indicate that it wasn't worth pressing the point.
"You can go inside, you know." He nodded at the cell, "The bars will pass through you just like Faith did last time."
Buffy eyed the bars with distaste, remembering the unpleasant sensation of having something 'solid' pass through her. For a moment, she considered refusing the demon's suggestion.
"How long do we have to remain here?" she stalled.
Whistler shrugged again,
"Until the PTB decide that you've seen enough." He answered evasively.
The blonde nodded, not surprised. She might not have Willow's gift for academia, but she could follow a simple equation like this one. If the Powers wanted her to see something, and Whistler was the guide they had chosen to show her, then doing as he suggested would make the whole sorry experience end more quickly.
Buffy stepped quickly through the bars, minimising the amount of time it took for them to pass through her, then walked closer to the bed on which Faith was sitting. As she drew closer, she noticed a sheet of paper on the bed in front of the brunette. A sour expression crossed her face as she leaned closer to look at it. It was probably a letter from Angel.
Then her eyes widened suddenly with realisation.
The hand-writing was Dawn's.
MERRY XMAS! I think Mom has got me the CD I wanted. I guess you won't get presents in jail. But maybe Angel will give you something. I don't get why Buffy is so mad at him for trying to help you. She would probably yell at me if she knew I was writing this.
Buffy was very upset last week, because Riley has left. She wouldn't tell me why he went, but she was crying a lot for the first two days. Xander said I should just leave her alone for a while, so I tried to, but then I tripped and spilled juice on her dress and she got all mad because Riley had bought it for her.
She is a bit better now, but I think she misses him. I do too, a bit, even though he used to treat me like a kid. I just hope she doesn't run away again.
I hope you are OK. I know you did bad stuff, but I wish you didn't have to be in jail for it.
"I'll kill her." Buffy swore, planting her hands on her hips.
"Who? Dawn or Faith?" Whistler asked, hearing her words despite being outside the cell.
"Both of them." The Slayer snapped. "How could she be so stupid? Telling Faith all about our lives? Dawn knows how dangerous Faith is."
"Maybe she believes Faith is reformed." Whistler suggested quietly, "Just like you did when Angel returned."
"That was completely different." the Slayer snapped
The question could have sounded like a challenge, but Whistler's tone softened it, made it sound like he really wanted to know the answer.
"When Angel changed . . ." she said slowly, not turning around, "It happened by accident, because neither of us knew what we were doing. Afterwards, it wasn't him anymore. It was Angelus. He never meant to betray me. Faith *chose* to. She knew exactly what she was doing, and she did it willingly." she sighed, "Look, I'm really not in the mood for this. I just lost my boyfriend, I'm tired . . . you couldn't have picked a worse time to try and tell me Faith deserves my forgiveness."
"It's the worst of times, and it's the best of times."
"What's that supposed to mean?" the blonde frowned, rapidly growing frustrated.
"When Spike showed you what Riley was doing, you felt betrayed. But you forgave him."
"Because Xander reminded me what Riley means to me . . ."
The Slayer frowned, then turned.
"So you figure I'm in the mood to listen?" she snapped, "What, you're going to make Dawn do for Faith what Xander did for Riley? It's not the same!"
This time the question *was* a challenge, and Buffy felt a rush of anger run through her
"Listen to me!" she snapped, stabbing her finger at Whistler, "I'm tired, I'm miserable, and I have had *enough*. I will *not* forgive Faith. She took my life and she ground it into the dust. She tried to kill Angel. She sided with the Mayor. She made me l-" Buffy broke off abruptly, trying not to think of the words she had been about to say.
The cell faded around them, leaving Buffy and Whistler once more in her room.
"Right." Buffy grimaced, "That's two exercises in humiliation completed. Let's get on with the third. What's it going to be, anyway? My lonely, unattended funeral, like in the movie?" her tone wavered between bitterness and resignation.
"Of course not." Whistler answered, taking the rare step of removing his hat as he did so, "You have friends and family who love you, Slayer. That won't change."
"Oh." she threw her hands in the air, "then perhaps it's the destruction of the world because there was an enemy I needed Faith's help to defeat? That would be suitably trite, wouldn't it? Buffy has to do the right thing to save the world again. What, getting killed wasn't enough to prove my commitment?"
Whistler shook his head,
"No. Every time you need her in the future, Faith will be there." his words were quiet, his tone sombre, "That remains true whatever you decide to do. Faith will spend the rest of her life trying to make things right with you."
"Then *what* is this about?" the blonde demanded, frustrated and confused, "You tell me that I made a mistake that needs fixing. So what is it? You want me to patch things up with Faith, right? Why? What's the deal? There's got to be some big bad I need her help for . . ."
"Several of them." Whistler agreed, "But that's not what this is about. Faith once asked you how she could make things right. She meant that. Whatever you decide, you will have Faith's help whenever you need it."
"I just don't get it!" the Slayer exclaimed in frustration, "What's the mistake I'm supposed to fix? What do the Powers That Be get out of this? If Faith will help me, either way, why are they putting me through this?"
"Buffy." his rare use of her name brought the blonde to silence, "I never said that the Powers That Be had anything to gain from this. Your experience tonight isn't a duty, or a trial." Whistler paused, his eyes calm as they met hers, "This is Christmas, Buffy. Tonight is a gift."
"A gift?" the blonde repeated, disbelievingly, "Bringing all of the pain back? Was that the gift? Or was the gift reminding me what I felt for Faith, and how she spat on it? Or maybe the fact that my sister is sending letters to her behind my back! That's a pretty great gift, after all!"
Whistler opened his mouth to reply, then shut it hurriedly as the Slayer advanced upon him.
"So tell me, Whistler." she said, in the sort of quiet tone that threatens imminent violence, "Who decided I made a 'mistake' with Faith?" her voice began to rise, "Whose sick joke was it to put me through this 'gift'?"
"It was mine." the words came from behind her. It was a woman's voice, eerily familiar yet somehow impossible to place. Buffy turned slowly.
"Dawn that is 'Yet To Come'." her sister nodded slowly. She looked and sounded almost exactly like the young girl Buffy had seen off to bed, but there was a subtle throb of power underlying both her appearance and her words.
"How?" the Slayer managed to squeeze out the question, all but lost for words.
"You can't hide what I am, forever." her 'sister' shrugged in a gesture that seemed almost embarrassed. "I do find out. Eventually." the last word was spoken with a wry smile.
"What . . ." Buffy paused, then tried again, "What is this about, Dawn?"
"It's about you being happy." the other girl smiled gently, "It's about you finding the one person who can make you whole. It's about me repaying you both for the sacrifices you will each have to make." she paused, and Buffy realised that both Dawn and Whistler were beginning to fade from the room, "Go to her, Buffy."
The Slayer's eyes snapped open, and she sat up in bed, feeling the hammering of her heart gradually slow. Light streamed in through the window, splashing across her bed, and there was a vigorous pounding on her door.
"Come on, sleepyhead!" Dawn's voice. "It's time!"
Buffy flicked a glance at the clock beside her bed, reading the time displayed.
"Seven three oh."
Faith was nervous as she walked into the visitor's room, her mind whirling with possibilities. It was far too early for Angel to be visiting, and she didn't think anyone else would have come. Unless it was one of those Wolfram and Hart scumbags, come to gloat on Christmas Day. She wouldn't put that past them.
When she saw the pale, nervous blonde on the other side of the glass, she stopped dead in her tracks, her heart squeezing tight in her chest. She wasn't ready for this. She doubted she ever would be. And for Buffy to be here now, on this of all days.
The brunette sat down, her body on auto-pilot, hands numbly putting the handset to her ear,
"Hey, B." she offered, tentatively, her dark eyes never leaving the blonde's face.
Buffy smiled, that crooked half-smile that always made her catch her breath. And suddenly, she felt a sense of hope.
"Merry Christmas, Faith."