What You Wish For
Written for the 2007 Blood Roses Advent Calendar.
Thanks to Jo and Spiralleds for the beta.
“Good night, Buffy,” Dawn said quietly. “Merry Christmas.”
Buffy and Dawn’s day had consisted of finding the ‘perfect’ Christmas tree. Pickings had been thin, but in the end they had lucked out. An eight foot blue spruce was taking up the entire corner of their small, but cozy living room.
“Good night, Dawn.”
They had spent most of the day decorating the pine, and now the Christmas tree was shimmering in the muted lighting. Buffy studied the reds, greens, and blues of the ornaments, along with the silver and gold of the tinsel. All of them sparkled like multicolored gems in the light’s reflective glow.
She turned away from the tree. This time of year always brought about thoughts of Angel. She still didn’t know what exactly had happened to him. Facts got lost in time and over distances. Time was a strange thing that way. How it passed and how things were either deemed important or not in a moment. Like the snow that had fallen on Christmas in Sunnydale just in time to save Angel all those years ago.
A lot had happened since that snowy Christmas morning. Angel was part of her. A physical piece that had been removed against her will. He was the only person that had penetrated her heart and soul in a way she didn’t think possible before or since him.
Melancholy. She hated when she got like this.
She had a hard time thinking of herself as being lucky, but in a way she was. She had walked away from the crater of Sunnydale, in one piece, and surrounded by her friends and family. At times like these she needed to remember that day and how special it truly was that they had made it out alive.
After checking the lock on the front door, she made her way into the kitchen where a tea kettle full of water waited. Every Christmas Eve she’d serve herself some hot chocolate with marshmallows. She turned the flame up on the stove to heat the water faster and then she began to scrounge around the cupboard, looking for the marshmallows. She was just about to curse Dawn for eating them all when she found a small bag pushed all the way in the back. They were kind of hard, but the warmth of the cocoa would soften them up in no time.
Dawn had a terribly, and sticky, habit of making ‘homemade taffy’ by continually working the white, fluffy treats between her fingers until it was gooey enough to stretch from one hand to the other. Then she’d wrap it around her index finger and suck it off in one gulp. Buffy kept waiting for her to grow out of this annoying and messy little habit, but she didn’t see that happening anytime soon.
“She saved you some.”
Buffy turned and looked at Faith who was leaning on the counter. “She’s lucky. I might’ve had to take all her presents back. When did you get here?”
“A while ago. You had that look on your face, so I left well enough alone.” She grabbed a cup out of the cupboard and made herself a cup of hot chocolate. “And you’d never do that to Dawn. Who you trying to kid?”
“I’m cursed to be nice,” Buffy said as she sat down at the table.
“How are you doing, B?” she asked, without making direct eye contact.
“You know me,” Buffy said as she sat down at the table. She grabbed a Christmas tree shaped cookie off the plate that was still there from earlier. “I’m Buffy.”
“Yeah, I do know you. Why do you think I’m asking?” Faith grabbed a cookie and after giving it the once over shoved it into her mouth.
“Angel.” Buffy’s throat felt tight and she swallowed hard. “It’s hard not knowing… Even though I didn’t see him often I knew he was okay. He was out there and he was okay. Now I don’t know anything.”
“Giles didn’t find out anything?”
The sister slayers talked and drank hot cocoa throughout most of the night sharing their memories of a certain vampire. After Faith had excused herself and gone to bed, Buffy had stayed a little while longer. As she rinsed out her cup, she glanced out the window and she saw the sunrise. Then a few flakes of snow began to fall.
“Wake up! Wake up!” Dawn screeched from the hall.
Buffy rolled over and slammed her pillow over her face. She hadn’t been asleep that long. She wasn’t ready to get up and face the day yet.
“Come on, Buffy!”
It was a losing battle. There was no way Dawn was going to let her stay in bed and sleep the day away. That’s what Buffy wanted to do: sleep the stupid day away. Spend her time swathed in blankets while visions of sugar plums did whatever sugar plums did this time of year.
“I’m coming! Jeez.”
After studying herself in the mirror, she figured it was probably good that it would only be the three of them celebrating. Buffy’s hair was sticking out every possible way it could stick out and the dark circles under her eyes made it look like she could be playing catcher for the local baseball team. She patted down the biggest offenders on her head and then trotted down the stairs.
“Nice hair, B.”
It sure didn’t help that it looked like Faith had been up for hours; every hair in place and her make-up was impeccable, although down-played from the way she wore it when she was younger. Buffy self-consciously patted her hair down again with both hands.
“I’ll be right back.” Buffy ran back up the stairs, brushed out her long, honey-colored hair and then tied it back into a ponytail.
“Smile! Dawn said as she snapped Buffy’s picture.
Giles had gotten Dawn the phone the Christmas before and Dawn had the thing programmed so it’d make a camera clicking noise when she took a picture.
“Look at how pretty you look,” Dawn said.
“Okay, I need coffee before this goes any further,” Buffy said, spinning on her heels and heading back toward the kitchen.
Faith and Dawn followed her.
“Don’t take forever, Buffy. There’re presents to open,” Dawn reminded her.
“If I drink anymore coffee, I’m going to puke,” Faith said as she yanked on the refrigerator door. “Eggnog. It’s morning. It has eggs. Can anyone say breakfast of champions?”
“As long as you keep the rum out of it,” Dawn said, grabbing what was left of the marshmallows off the counter. She quickly went to work.
As Faith rummaged through the refrigerator, Buffy poured herself a cup of coffee from the carafe. It was strong and a little bitter, but it’d do.
“It snowed earlier,” Buffy said.
“No it didn’t,” Faith said. “We’re in New Mexico, B. It doesn’t snow here.”
“I know that, but it did. At sunrise. Right before we went to bed.”
“You were dreaming,” Dawn said. “I was up at sunrise and there was no snow.”
“Why were you up so early, squirt?” Faith asked.
“Um, nothing.” She smiled, but she resembled the cat that just ate the canary.
“What the hell?” Faith said as she pulled a small box out of the freezer. “I wanted ice.” She flipped the box over and read from a tag on the bottom. “It’s says, ‘Buffy’.” She tossed the box to Buffy and she caught it midair.
“Who? What? Who’s this from?” Buffy asked.
“Don’t look at me, B.”
“What is it?” Dawn asked, walking up and standing next to Buffy. “Who got you that? I didn’t.” She swiped the box out of Buffy’s hand and shook it. “Ooh! It’s jewelry. You can so tell.”
“I thought it was from you,” Buffy said as she took the box back.
“No, not me.”
“What is it?” Buffy asked
“Only one way to find out, open it,” Faith said.
“Maybe I shouldn’t,” Buffy said.
“Just open it,” Dawn suggested. “It’s probably from Xander or Giles and they’re just trying to be sneaky. Your slayer sense isn’t screaming ‘bad-mojo’ is it?”
“Well…” Dawn prodded.
Buffy took a deep breath; surprised to find that her hands shook as she untied the ribbon. She willed them to stop as she separated the tape from the foil wrapping paper. She couldn’t help but stop when it came to actually opening the lid to the box.
“Do it already,” Dawn insisted. “I can’t stand it.”
“Here goes nothing.”
She flipped the lid open and immediately dropped the box and its contents to the rug at her feet. There, caught in the polyester fibers of the carpeting, was a Claddagh ring. As Buffy reached for it the room was overcome with a bright flash and then everything went dark.
“You could’ve waited for me before you opened my gift.”
Buffy’s eyes fluttered open. Her head ached. She'd had only one hangover in her short life and this felt worse than that had. And she was lying on the floor.
“In the flesh. So to speak.”
“Are you real?”
He moved quicker than a cat and pulled her to her feet. Sweeping a kiss over her lips he said, “What do you think?”
She swallowed hard. “Definitely real.” Her lips still tingled from where he had touched them. “Where are we?” It looked like the mansion, but that couldn’t be right. Shaking her head she said, trying to clarify, “Not where, but when?”
“Neither here, nor there. Neither now, nor later.”
“You’re kidding me. Right?”
“The Powers don’t like to kid. But they do like their rules.”
“The Powers That Be. I so should’ve figured.” She rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. There are rules. What are they?”
“You can’t ask any questions.”
“That’s a dumb rule.”
It was the mansion all right; maybe not their mansion, since that was in the bottom of a crater, but it sure looked like it. After running her hand over a few pieces of furniture, a couple of walls, and Angel, she knew that wherever they were wasn’t necessarily real, but they sure seemed to be. Angel was currently leaning against the fireplace, legs crossed at the ankles, with that silly smirk on his face.
“What are you smiling at?” she asked and was greeted by an arched brow. “Question. Right. Got it.”
“How long is it going to take you to figure it out?” he asked.
“You can ask questions? So not fair.” She flopped down in a chair and looked around. “I suck at games.”
“This isn’t a game.”
“Pretty damn close if you ask me.”
“It’s not a game. Not really.”
It was her turn to smile. She was having one of those empathy things. Or was it epiphany? She always got those two words mixed up. But she had come to the conclusion that she was still sleeping and that Dawn hadn’t screamed to wake her up yet.
“Oh, nice try. But I think I got you now. This isn’t a game. It’s a dream,” she said.
“It’s not a dream.”
“How can it be anything else?” She was greeted with silence. “Fine. Then it’s real. You’re real. I’m real. Everything’s real.”
“This place isn’t real.” Not a question, but a statement.
“It’s a memory.”
What? She couldn’t ask questions, but she could make statements that he’d correct or clarify. Maybe it wasn’t such a dumb game after all.
“The Powers got all this from you. Not sure what came over them. They’re not usually this… giving.”
“You call this giving? Okay, I created the memory because…” her voice trailed off.
He shook his head.
She scrambled to the floor where she had woken up and started looking for the ring she had dropped in another place and time. If this was really happening it would be here. It had to be. It’s what connected them and this place together. She knew that. So should The Powers that Be.
“Looking for this?” he said, holding up the ring.
“Thank god.” She rushed toward him, but he held it above his head where she couldn’t reach it. “What? No, not what. Um, I can’t have the ring because…”
Still holding the ring above her head he said, “Why is this place special to you? You picked it.”
“You know why.”
“You need to say it.”
“It’s the place where I lost you and then found you again,” her voice cracked. It had been harder to say than she thought it would be.
“What do you want most, Buffy?”
“To know that you’re safe.” She squeezed the hand that was at his side. “For you to come back. For you to know that I miss you. I need you. I want you. And that I love you, Angel.”
Angel was gone and a woman dressed in a flowing white gown and long silver hair appeared where he had been standing only moments before.
Buffy was encased in a warm, yellow light.
Like pixie dust slowly drifting in a breeze her kitchen came back into focus. Angel was there. She moved to him and rested her head on his chest, smiling when she heard the steady heartbeat that resided there. A memory long-forgotten tugged at her heart.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
She was afraid to move away from him. It was as if she was the only thing keeping him close to her. What if she let him go and he vanished? What if he left and she never found him again. She squeezed him tighter.
“Breathe…” he grunted. “Can’t breathe.”
She loosened her grip, but didn’t let him go. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” He pulled her closer to him.
“If anyone deserves a miracle it’s you, Buffy. After all you’ve done…”
“After all you’ve done… We’ve both done. We’re here together for a reason, Angel. I can feel it.”
And she could. That piece of her that was gone was now filled up with the essence of him.
“Maybe not exactly alike.” He kissed the top of her head. “I love you. Always have. Always will.”
“I don’t want this to end.”
“How can you be so sure?”
He never had the chance to answer her question. Dawn came bounding into the kitchen and Buffy waited for her to say something that would ruin the moment. Something that would make Angel disappear again. Maybe forever this time.
“Are you done?” Dawn asked.
“Um, no. I mean, yes,” Buffy stammered.
Dawn didn’t look surprised. She looked irritated. As soon as she came around the corner into the kitchen she slammed her hands on her hips and began tapping her foot.
“Dawn, it’s Angel.”
“We haven’t seen him in--”
“Like a minute and a half. You two left to get coffee and left me and Faith in the living room waiting for you. Some of us would like to open our Christmas presents this Christmas!” She huffed as she turned and stormed out of the room.
“What is happening?” Buffy asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said. She was pretty sure his face was currently mirroring her own confusion, but then his expression cleared and he smiled. “We’re getting a second chance.”
“A second chance?”
“I’ll explain it to you later.”
“Yo, B!” Faith’s voice echoed from the living room. “You and Angel can have all the alone time you want later. Right now I want to open this thing with my name on it.”
“That would be from me,” Dawn said as Buffy and Angel walked into the living room.
“I know what it is,” Buffy said. “If she doesn’t want it, I’ll take it.”
“Not going to happen, B.”
“Hey! What about me?” Dawn said holding up a package that resembled a book. “I so know this is the Deathly Hallows. It is, isn’t it?”
“Isn’t anything sacred?” Buffy asked, feigning annoyance.
“Some things are,” Angel said, softly.
“Yes, some things are,” Buffy agreed.
“Are you going to even open any presents, Buffy?” Dawn asked.
“I already got mine,” Buffy said as she gazed at the matching rings on her and Angel’s fingers. “In more ways than one.”
“Oh, barf.” Dawn tossed a present to Angel. “This is from me. A real present.”
“Buffy’s as real as they get.”
“You know what I mean,” Dawn said as she ripped the paper off one of her gifts. “God, I love this time of year.”
“Don’t we all,” Buffy said.
“Where’d I leave the eggnog?” Faith asked. “I’m going to need a big ol’ glass to get through this crap.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too, Faith,” Angel said.
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you too. Now can the two of you sit your asses down and get to unwrapping so we can eat? I’m starved.”
Buffy and Angel did as they were told.
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