The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
Chapter 1- Makin' the Yule Tide Gay
God I hate this kinda shit. Crawlin' around in places that were never meant for human life forms.
"It should be coming up on your left soon." Buffy's voice crackles in my ear piece.
"You mean you `got it' as in you have it? Or you mean you understand?"
Oh shit, she's in another one of those moods, I can tell by the clipped way she said that shit. I'm in for it.
But I'm smart, I don't get myself into trouble, because I know how to handle this.
"Faith, this is not rocket science! Either you have it or you don't!"
Shit, I blew it. I had the power to stop her from gettin' mad at me in my hands, and that power fuckin' dissipated like some misty shit that Will uses in her spells.
And because I'm a stubborn, headstrong, stupid bitch, I gotta make it worse.
"If you weren't yellin' in my fuckin' ear maybe I could get a fuckin' thought in!"
"Don't you yell at me using that foul language! You're lucky Mia's sleeping!"
Yeah, not to mention she wouldn't be able to hear me unless Buffy put the earpiece on her.
Ok, let me fill you in on some shit here. It's been 6 months since we had our little girl, and in that time Buffy's become a nun and not even just an everyday, run of the mill, garden type variety nun. No. She's Mother Superior pain in my ass.
And just because there has to be a balance between good and evil, I've become the devil. Again.
"You probably just woke her with your screamin', along with half the people in Timbuktu." Yeah, lame, I know, but I had to think quick.
"She's fine. I've got the baby monitor with me. Now, do you want to finish this or what?"
I hear a painful sigh in my ear and then muffled noises that I take to mean she's pulled the headset off.
Fuck, she can't do that. We're not done! And fucked if I know where to go from here. Shit, I fucked up again.
"Faith, it's Andrew." Great, just what I need. "I've been given command of the headset and the map. I'll guide you from here."
"Just tell me one thing, dude."
"How bad am I in for it when I get outta here?"
"Well, if you complete the mission successfully I would think not too bad. But Buffy did mention something about you sleeping on the sofa until Mia went to college."
"That's better than I thought."
"Why would you say that? I would think that would be awful."
"Nah, dude, she didn't say anything about kickin' me out, and don't worry, she'd spend one night in that big ol' bed by herself and freeze to fuckin' death. I'd be back in before mornin'."
"Not if it's after she opens the present I got her." Andy says, kind of nervous.
"What'd you get her? A Faith clone?"
"No, but I hadn't thought of that." He says with sincerity and if I could give him a look that would kill he'd be dead. He laughs and says, "No silly, I got her a Snuggie."
"A Snuggie. You know that thing from the T.V."
"The stuffed bear from the fabric softener commercials?"
"No, that's Snuggle…" Andy trails off, the way he said that I would have thought he saw a ghost.
"What's the matter dude, we got trouble there?"
"No, that bear scares me."
I can tell he just had the heebie jeebies and did a full body shudder. Poor dude. He's a fuckin' nutbag, but he's been a good friend and he saved my life so he gets a pass for his quirks.
"So what's this thing you got Buffy?" I say absentmindedly as I crawl around, tryin' to remember where I need to go from my memories of the map.
"Oh! It's that thing on the commercials, you know, the blanket with arms."
Oh no, not that fuckin' thing. It's a one size fits all blanket that you can wear.
It looks like something a Pope or a Bishop would be wearin'. Just the fuckin' thing Buffy needs to complete the Mother Superior persona she's got goin' on.
"What color?" I can't berate him for his present choices, it's actually a step up from what he got us last year.
"That sounds sweet."
"I got one for myself in blue." He gasps and my heart sinks.
"Andy, don't make me crawl outta here and come there and kick your ass. What?!"
"No, it's nothing, I just thought of something to get you for Christmas is all."
Oh great, I'm gonna have my own personal nun costume, in blue probably.
"Ok, dude, that's sweet. Now," I say gettin' back to the business at hand. "Do I hang a left, or is it straight ahead?"
"If you're where I think you are, you should be right on top of it. Look to your right."
I train my flashlight on a big square object and I can make out the words `Christmas Lights'. Fuckin' score dude.
Just ten fuckin' more boxes to go and I can get out of the fuckin' crawl space in the ceilin'.
"Ok, I've got it. Meet me at the openin' and I'll hand it down."
"No, Andy, go wake the baby, she'll take it from me."
"Really? Because I don't think Buffy would approve. I sneezed outside Mia's room and she threatened to make me a eunuch."
I close my eyes and sigh.
"No, not really! You can't handle a box?"
"Those boxes you guys have are big! I can't help it if I'm not as strong as you."
Fuck, I'm gonna have to get him to bring Buffy back. I actually was glad when she handed over the controls to him, gave me less of a chance of pissin' her off.
"Go get Buffy, Andrew. Tell her to meet me at the openin'."
"Ok." I hear him walking around the apartment, lookin' for her. After a few moments he says cautiously, "I think she went out, Faith."
"What?!" That's impossible. She'd never go out without sayin' somethin'. Mia's takin' her nap, and even though I'm just up in the ceilin' and she's pissed at me, she would have said somethin'.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure she went out."
"Where's the baby?!" I panic just slightly and almost come out of my skin when my pants pocket starts vibratin'.
Did I mention I'm on edge a little?
I pull out my phone, Buffy texted me. "Mia woke. We're downstairs."
Downstairs. With the new neighbors. They're a young couple that moved in about a month after Mia was born. They've got three rugrats of their own. None as cute and as well behaved as Mia, but they're alright.
I'll be bitched about, no doubt.
And that means I've gotta haul these fuckin' boxes over to the openin' in the crawlspace. Climb out of it and haul the boxes down the ladder and pray I don't break my fuckin' neck in the process.
"They're downstairs at the Abbots, Andy. Just meet me at the openin' and make sure I don't die. Ok?"
"What can I do?"
"Break my fuckin' fall."
"Ooh, you cursed." Andy sing-songs. "I'm tellin'." He teases.
"I'll kick you in the nuts, dude."
"Ooh, I'm not tellin'." He sing-songs again without missin' a beat.
"Where's Faith?" I hear through the earpiece.
Oh my fuckin' savior! My cousin Francie. She's come to save my life and possibly Christmas, `cause I was thinkin' of just sayin' `fuck it', we'd light a fire in the fireplace call it the Yule Log and be done with the fuckin' decoratin'.
But nah, I can't do that shit. Buffy would make me sleep on the couch for real. Don't think for one second I haven't since Mia's been born.
She puts me out there when I piss her off. Which has not been all that hard to do lately. The doctor says it's normal for couples to experience irritability and mood swings after havin' a kid. Especially the first kid. `Cause we get practically no sleep. Which normally wouldn't be so bad, but then we're as nervous as fuck about everything.
And I mean everything.
Buffy called the doctor so many times that first week, I thought he was gonna ask to move in. But it's not like I stopped her, I was the one encouragin' her to call half the time.
The funny thing was, somehow she expected I knew everything and when Mia had her first cold and coughed like an alien had possessed her tiny body, Buffy looked at me with those big hazel eyes of hers that look almost green when she's emotional and what did I do? Why the logical thing for a first time mother, of course. I panicked. I practically hauled the doc outta bed and got him to our apartment. Even though he's not one of those house call types.
After he checked her out, he said it was common, that she didn't have a fever and gave us one of those bulb syringe things to siphon the snot out of her nose. He also gave us a warning: that the next time I went to his house in the middle of the night for a non-emergency he was going to file a restraining order.
He was kidding of course, `cause we pay that fucker a lot of money since he's got to keep hush about the slayer business, but I got his point. And I don't even know why I reacted like I did. I mean, it's not like I haven't been around kids before. I used to help with my cousins when they were little, and I've looked after Joey a lot, but I guess when it's actually your kid you react to things a lot differently.
Take Buffy for instance, she flipped the fuck out when the doc was demonstrating how we use the bulb thingy in Mia's nose. She was worried her brain was gonna come siphonin' out with the snot.
So, of course, I got put in charge of that. And even though I've done way grosser things, I was so very freaked about doing that to Mia. It did cross my mind that if I shot too much air up her nose it would pull her brain out with the mucus. Lovely thought, lemme tell ya.
Oh and there's nothin' more sexy then Buffy yellin' out, "Faith, the baby has boogersnots, can you get them out?"
And that brings me to another topic that's been touchy. Sex.
Most days I'm lucky if I get a kiss, Buffy hasn't been feeling particularly sexy lately. Not that I'm really feeling all that put out, because she and I still do stuff. Don't get me wrong, we're still young, in love and horny people but lately things are kinda different. I guess it's been busy because of the holidays and we're pulling extra shifts at our new HQ because the other Slayers are off to visit their family for the Christmas holidays. And I can't blame them for it. Most of them didn't travel back home for Thanksgiving because of the whole economy turmoil. Ya know, gas prices being high and ticket prices for air travel being even higher. So they decided fuck it, we'll stay in NY for the holiday. But now with lower gas prices and their families bitchin' them out for not spendin' Thanksgiving with them, we got a lot of leave requests.
How could we say no?
So, Giles is in England, Willow's in Brazil with Ken's parents and sister, and even Xander's parents roped him in to spending the holidays with them in Santa Barbara. They got a huge settlement for their house from the government, finally, for the collapse of the land formerly known as Sunnydale.
That's another thing that you've missed in the last few months that I haven't been writin', the government concluded, after a big hassle with the insurance industry, that there was no earthquake that caused Sunnydale to implode. Apparently they traced the events of the collapse to the school. And in interviews with the fine residents of Sunnydale, who were seriously pissed that they had lost their houses and couldn't claim them on their insurance because more than half of them didn't have earthquake coverage, there was a bigger investigation and it brought the heat down right on Buffy.
I mean literally. She had to go back to California, in the middle of the hottest July on record and defend herself against the state. The lawyers we had working for us were really good and they uncovered the original plans that were used to build the city, they also uncovered documents that were filed in the court house showin' that when it was built there was a lot of strong armin' goin' on because the land was originally deemed unsafe to build on.
There was a snag though, the documents couldn't be used in court unless they were released by the family of the person who had originally gotten them suppressed.
Richard Wilkins Sr.
Yeah, you guessed it, the Mayor, who was also Richard Wilkins, Jr. and Richard Wilkins the Third.
I guess you've probably also worked out by now why those days out in Cali were some of the most troubling days in the history of Faith and Buffy.
Yeah, picture this, me and Buffy were loungin' in our hotel room; relaxin' after a grueling fuckin' day with the lawyers and we get a call from one of `em who we had just been in the meetin' with and he wants us to come back. Well, he said he wanted me to come back, so I told him to go fuck himself. But of course Buffy got on the phone and said we'd be back there once she finished feedin' the baby. Then we got another call from the head of our lawyer team and she said it was just me that needed to come down, so I should just come down right away and be back before supper time.
Buffy didn't say shit, she just gave me that look like, `I trust you, but I'm sure as hell gonna grill you when you get back.'
So I go down there and they tell me that there's only one person that can sign over the documents. One person left with ties to the Wilkins family.
Ok, so no biggie right? I just sign away and go back to my family.
But here's where shit got dicey. When I got back to the hotel, I didn't know how to tell Buffy what I had to go do. I mean, I had no fuckin' clue that the mayor had left everything to me. I mean everything. Even his boyhood home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The only reason they found that out was because of the trial and the diggin' into backgrounds they had to do.
Lemme tell ya, the fuckin' team of lawyers we have could find a Yargos demon in a freakin' haystack.
Heh. `Cause ya know, those things are freakin' small, dude.
Anyway, so when I got back, I told Buffy I had to just sign some papers to have them use some documents that could get her off the hook. I wasn't lyin' and she could see it in my eyes, so no big deal.
Until, we were in the courtroom and the state brought out evidence that the guy who bankrolled the town and ultimately became its mayor, was the ancestor of my benefactor. Still no real big deal, but when they said that this was found out because I gave the court permission to release the documents to our counsel, you could see the fuckin' steam comin' from Buffy's ears.
I hadn't told her the whole truth. And that means more to her than anything in the world, besides Mia of course, but withholdin' information from Buffy is like tellin' her I don't trust her, and that's something she thought we worked out months ago. But this is me we're talkin' about here, so ya know, I fucked up.
She, like everybody else, thought I had prior knowledge about the Mayor bein' my benefactor. Which I didn't, but that didn't mean I wasn't in trouble for not comin' clean. I don't even know why I didn't tell her, I guess I just didn't want the extra tension.
Of course, that always means that when it comes to me tryin' to avoid extra tension between me and Buffy, I create World War Three.
I just gotta not trust my instincts sometimes, `cause mostly they get me into trouble.
Like now for example, I thought I'd be a good wife and root around in the crawl space so Buffy wouldn't have to and look where it got me, with her mad and me possibly sleepin' on the couch again tonight.
Believe me though, I'd much rather sleep on the couch when Buffy's mad at me than in the bed. `Cause at least on the couch I can't feel the tautness of her body and the air isn't stress charged. And you'd think that it's selfish of me, but at least one of us gettin' a good night sleep is needed to deal calmly with what we gotta deal with.
"Faith! Hey, Faith! Are ya up there?!"
"Yeah, Fran, I'm up here! Hang on, stay right there, I'm gonna hand a box down to ya!"
"What is it, a present for me?" She says like the smart ass she is.
"No, it's gonna be your livin' quarters for the rest of your stay in New York. We're puttin' it in the park for ya."
She's been hangin' with my Aunt Dee's kids too long, I gotta make sure she doesn't turn out like `em. I kid though, she's a good girl. Turnin' out to be a damned fine Slayer, she's at the top of all of her classes, and already promoted to the Jr. squad leader of her patrol group.
I'm so fuckin' proud of her I could burst. Also, she's lookin' more and more like Gee Gee everyday that sometimes if I imagine her with a tasteful dark colored dress or a nice skirt and top with a sweater draped over her shoulders and sensible heels, I would swear it was Gee Gee herself lookin' right at me.
She's even taken to callin' me Bella once in a while, it's a fuckin' trip. The first time she did it, she said it just came burstin' out of her mouth, like she was meant to be doin' it. It took me by such surprise that I ended up bawlin', well, bawlin' like the tough as shit, hate-to-show-emotions-like-that-in-front-of-anyone-besides-Buffy-Slayer that I am.
When Andy came to see why I had run out of the room like that, I told him about my cousin remindin' me of my grandmother and he suggested we do a séance to see if Gee Gee was tryin' to speak to us from beyond the grave.
But I don't need no boogie woogie shit to tell me that. I already know she speaks to us, she's everywhere.
From Joey dancin' and singin' the Italian songs she taught him, to Leah wantin' to be a doctor even though we all thought she wanted to be a writer, to Alicia bein' the guardian angel that we all needed, to Aunt Dee makin' the holiday cookies that make us fat, to all the girls sittin' around and tellin' the stories that she used to tell to everyone who'll listen.
I hand down the box I need and ask Francie to guide me, but she makes me climb down so she can crawl up there and get the shit.
When Buffy comes back in with the baby she's got questionin' look on her face. I just keep guidin' Francie.
"Somewhere up there, Fran, is a smaller box, it should be right where you just were for the glass ornaments, it's got the tree stand in it."
"I got it now, I think I see it."
"Next year we'll install lights up in that fucker."
"Faith," Buffy scolds matter-of-factly. "Really, you don't even care, do you?"
Shit, I'm dumb.
It's not that I don't care. I really don't want Mia's first word to be fuck anymore than Buffy does, but I just don't think to censor myself. I gotta start thinkin' of Giles when I see Mia, then I won't say bad words around her, `cause I don't know what it is about Giles, but he just has that way about him and I can't curse. Unless I'm really mad, that is.
"Sorry, Buffy." I go over to her and Mia. "Sorry Mimi." I kiss Mia's little head and she reaches out for me.
"Colin and Kim invited us over Friday night."
"Oh really? What're they havin'?"
Buffy hands Mia over to me so she can take off her scarf and gloves. She's a nut, she just went downstairs and she needed to wear winter gear.
"A get together for some of the people in the building, it'll be hors d'oeuvres and drinks."
Great, goose liver on a cracker and cheap champagne.
"Sounds great. When're they expecting us?"
"You'll go?" Buffy's face is puzzled but she's got a happy smile on her lips.
"Sure, why not? We haven't had a night out together in a while."
"It would be great, then maybe we can go out; just the two of us, and do something?"
"What times the Abbots' shindig?"
"Faith, I'm ready to hand this down to you," Francie's voice crackles in my ear.
"I'm with ya Fran, I'm headin' up the ladder now." I give Mia another kiss and hand her back to Buffy and climb up.
"Cool, we can stay for an hour, then maybe we can go to that new club that opened."
Buffy's face falls a little.
She recovers and smiles.
"Here you go, Faith." Francie's head pops out of the crawlspace and she hands me the tree stand box. "What's next?"
"Ummm," I really wasn't payin' attention to the list, I was tryin' to see what I could say to get Buffy to talk, I look back at the piece of laminated paper in my hand. "The train set and town scene that goes around the bottom of the tree."
Buffy's walkin' away already, she's headed towards the room.
"What were you gonna say?"
"About goin' out."
"Where you goin'?" Francie asks.
"To a party."
"Friday night." I say to Fran then call out to Buffy who's already starting to walk away again, "Buffy!"
"What were you sayin'?!"
"Faith, don't yell, I don't remember. We're going out, to that place you wanted to go."
"Faith, you have that thing on Friday." Francie reminds me. "You told Giles you would take care of it."
Oh fuck, I forgot.
Buffy looks at me puzzled, "What do you have to do?"
"Noth…" I sigh and hang my head. "I told him I'd oversee the operation to clear the area around the docs. But I can see if someone else can do it."
Buffy watches me for a little bit longer and then says, "No, Faith. It's too important, especially since you gave Giles your word. I'll just tell them we can't make it."
Now this is where I'm supposed to tell her she can go without me, but I really don't want her goin' without me. Especially since there's this bachelor from the apartment down in the basement named Nico who really digs Buffy. Not that I don't trust her, but I don't even want him lookin' at her wrong.
"Well, don't tell `em anything yet, I might be able to push the operation up to Thursday, then we'll be able to go."
Buffy's face lights up, "As long as you're sure it'll be ok."
"Should be no problem." I smile at her and wink.
She nods at me and smiles up at Francie. "Thanks for helping out, Fran!"
"No problem, Buffy."
"Are you staying for lunch?"
"I hadn't planned on it."
"Well plan on it." Buffy says with another smile for Francie. "Just make sure you've got no spiders on you when you come out of there."
"No spiders, Ay Ay Captain!"
Buffy excuses herself and goes into our room.
After a few more minutes, Fran and I have managed to get the last box we needed for the Christmas decorations. We're chatterin' on about this and that and then I tell a story about somethin' that happened recently and Fran looks at me curiously.
"I think I just figured out somethin'."
"What's different lately."
"Between you and Buffy."
"Fran, cut out the crap and just spill it. What the f—," I stop myself, "What the heck are you talking about?"
"You don't call her `B' anymore."
"What? You're crazy!" I look at her like she's grown three heads.
"I might be crazy, but I know I'm right. It's been buggin' me for a few weeks now, I knew somethin' felt different about you two, besides the fact that you guys haven't been as touchy feely lately…"
Fran goes on about her feelin' and I stand there wrackin' my brain thinkin' about whether I call Buffy, B or not anymore. And fuck if I don't realize Fran's right. Shit. I wonder what that means.
"It's coming up on your left, Faith." Andrew instructs.
"How did somethin' so easy turn out to be so hard?"
"Easy? You're kidding right? We have to clear 6 buildings, two of which are factories."
"Not talkin' about the mission, Andy. Talkin' about bein' married to Buffy."
"Marriage is probably the hardest thing that anyone can do." Andy says, all serious. "But you really shouldn't be thinking like that, Faith. You guys are great together. And you should really concentrate on the mission."
"Yeah, I guess."
"You'll see the door coming up any minute now."
"We're right in front of it."
"Don't use it, use your hooks to scale the side like we planned. Go in through the roof."
I tell two of my lieutenants to take their parties up the roof, I'll keep my squad here and make sure none of the fuckers get away.
By the way, in case you didn't know, this is Friday night and Buffy's at the Abbots. I told her she should go without me since I couldn't move the mission up by a day. I did it just to be nice because I knew she would say `Nah, it wouldn't be the same without you.' but she didn't say that this time, she went.
Not a huge deal, but still, I was kinda bothered by it.
`Cause, ya know, I'm a dick like that.
Buffy said once I was done here to maybe either drop by the party or we might be able to still make goin' out together, but it's almost 10:30 now, we've been at it for three hours and even if this thing was super efficient we'd probably get done by 12 at the earliest.
Oh well, fuck thinkin' about that, I have a mission to do. Just gotta suck it up and do it.
It's 12:30 and I'm headed back home, I just called the house and Alicia answered, Buffy's still out, that's a little weird but I don't let it bother me.
"Hey, fuckface you wanna move your ass a little faster?!"
The dude that was sittin' in the intersection on a green light slowly pulls out and finally we're movin' again.
Nah, I'm not bothered by it.
Not at all.