Christmas Tradition

 

By: Adjovi

 

**

 

Angel sighed as the doors to the elevator slid shut, finally giving him the respite that he had been yearning for all night. His friends meant well, they always did, but he really wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit much these days. It had taken a great amount of willpower, and not a small amount of alcohol, to remain as long as he did. The party had been Lorne’s idea, of course, an “orphan’s” Christmas, which was a rather unfortunate choice of words in Angel’s opinion. It was just the men, as Fred had headed back to Texas to be with her actual family for the holidays, and her absence left quite a hole in the cheer department. Hence the large amounts of booze. Even last year that wouldn’t have been necessary, they had all been easy with one another, a family, but a lot had happened in that time. Mind wipes, secrecy, running an evil organization without being seduced by the iniquity—these kinds of things tended to put a strain on relationships.

 

Angel walked into his darkened apartment, dropping the bag of gifts onto the coffee table. He headed straight towards the bar, unstopping the cut glass decanter and pouring himself a largish glass of single malt. He flicked his glance over towards the clock. 4:32. He had about an hour or so, give or take, so he decided to look over his gifts, and sunk down onto his overstuffed sofa. He had received quite the mixed bag.

 

Wesley had given him a ceremonial dagger from what he thought was the Zhou Dynasty, if he wasn’t mistaken. He ran his finger lightly along the edge, appraising it. He would need to sharpen it a bit if he were ever to use it, but would probably just mount it on the wall of his office. Lorne had gotten him “Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits”. Angel opened the CD case and read the inside jacket, noting there were a couple of songs he didn’t recognize, and quickly scanned the mini biopic of Barry’s life before laying it back on the table. He reached back into the bag, scowling when he pulled out the envelope which held Spike’s present. A year’s subscription to Playboy. He flipped the envelope back down onto the table. He told himself he wasn’t canceling because it wouldn’t be polite, and also, he had heard that there were some really good articles. The fact that he had heard that from Spike didn’t bother him as much as it should. He pulled out Gunn’s present last. It was some kind of hand-held video game, apparently loaded with “NHL Hockey”. He frowned as he read over the instructions, not realizing until he was about halfway through that he was reading the French version. The thing seemed way too complicated and he had way too much alcohol in his system to operate the controls, but it did hold promise of being a good time waster at work in the days to come.

 

He had gone for the easy route with everyone else, giving them all hefty Christmas bonuses. No one seemed to mind. He had given one “real” present, although the recipient would never know who had sent it. He had agonized over what to give, having no idea what teenaged boys would like these days. Desperate, he finally broke down and turned to Harmony, and she told him the I-Pod was “like totally the ‘in’ thing this year”. Angel had no idea what the hell that was, and was deeply suspicious of anything with the word “pod” in it, but after a little internet research, it seemed to be harmless. Either that, or Apple was attempting world domination through tiny music players. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t all that far outside the realm of possibility. He had resisted writing “From Santa”, but only just, resigning to send the gift without any signature attached. He wished he could see Connor’s face when he opened it, but knew that wasn’t a possibility.

 

Angel sighed deeply and drained his glass, his slow glance taking in the both the time and the rosy fingers of sunlight just peeking over the horizon. His body felt the pull of dawn as well, his skin prickling just beneath the surface as a general feeling of lethargy settled in. It was time.

 

He stood, swaying a bit unsteadily, making his way over to his desk. He plopped himself into his chair, pulling his phone over. He fingered the small slip of paper he carried in his wallet, glad that he had maintained a covert connection with Willow. If not, he wouldn’t have been able to continue the tradition that had come to mean Christmas for him for the past five years. He tried to keep the deep brood at bay, to convince himself that she had been right, that he was a man worth saving. Somehow, this year this seemed more difficult to believe than most. He allowed himself to think back on that Christmas Eve, when all he wanted was to walk into the sun, ending it all. He thought about all of those who had been lost since then, who had been lost because of him. He wondered for the millionth time what if she hadn’t been there, what if it hadn’t snowed.

 

He closed his eyes, deciding not to dwell, and picked up the receiver, dialing the number from the slip of paper from memory. The phone rang four times before switching over to the answering machine. She was probably opening presents at Giles’ place, surrounded by family and friends. The recorded voice sounded tinny and cheerful, greeting the caller in both English and passable Italian. Angel dutifully waited for the beep before speaking, briefly wondering if he should say it in Italian this year, but decided at the last minute to stick with custom. He whispered “thank you” before gently laying the receiver back onto the cradle, staring off at the massive window that took up one whole wall of his office, waiting for the sun.

 


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