It’s the best Christmas present anyone can get (although Angel might
prefer to Shanshu). Send it to
Distribution: The Angel Texts, Blood Roses, Otherwise, just let me know
the right present can be so hard.
NAUGHTY OR NICE?
Each story can start in a number of different ways. Take, for example, Drusilla.
We could say that Drusilla was reading her tarot cards,
and that she had just laid on the table the card showing an Angel, forever
We could say that it was almost Christmas, and that
Drusilla needed to get suitable presents for each person on her Christmas
present list. Notice that we
don’t use the word ‘buy’.
We could say that Drusilla was living with a Chaos demon
and, after a few months with her, his life had become a little less
orderly. Or perhaps for Chaos
demons and Drusilla, the only way is up, and it should be a little *more*
We could say that Angel was at the very top of her list
although she probably wouldn’t say ‘whom’.
We could say that Drusilla had had a dream, a vision, of
her forever Falling Angel, his feathers drifting down around him like the
petals from a cherry tree in spring, leaving his wings naked and bare. Like a bat.
We could say that Drusilla went out looking for a
present for her Angel.
We could say all of those things, and all of them would
But, perhaps we have more than one story to tell? After all, it’s Christmas, and you
wouldn’t like to have only one present, would you? And if we have another story to
tell, would that also have different ways in which it would start? Well, duh, yes, would be the answer.
We could say that Christmas is merely tacked on to much
older, darker celebrations, using a convenient date, and beating the pagans
at their own game.
We could say that Father Christmas is a jolly old man,
very fat, with a bushy white beard, who tends to wear a lot of red.
We could say that the notion of Father Christmas started
with the Dutch idea of Sinterklaas, with a broad-brimmed hat and a pipe,
and a long churchly robe, because ‘Sinter’ mean Cinder, and he was supposed
to come down the chimney; or perhaps with the Lapps, so snowed up in winter
that visitors had to enter their tents through the smokehole.
We could say that the notion of Father Christmas started
with the Saxon God, Odin, riding his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, and who
in his December aspect came to earth dressed in a hooded cloak, to sit and
listen to his people and see if they were contented or not, and carrying a
satchel full of gifts to distribute to the needy or worthy.
Or we could say that it’s really about midwinter, and
the hope that the Earth will ever see another Summer; it’s about the
midwinter sacrifice, the gifts of food, and the granting of a position of
rank and status for the Chosen One, followed by the slash of the knife and
the opened throat, and the sprinkling of all that Chosen blood to fertilize
the fields and groves. And to
bring back the Sun. To save the
world. Let’s not forget that.
We could say all of those things, and all of them would
And for both of our stories, all of these starting
points might be true at the same time. Now, there would be a thing.
Drusilla had definitely had enough of this particular
Chaos demon. While she would
readily admit that she lived in her own little world, she wanted the other
world, the one around her, to be ordered and neat. She wanted to be able to find her
dolls. She wanted her dresses
to be clean, even the ones she’d had since longer than last night. That’s what men and minions were
for. That’s what Chas should
be doing. Except, he
wasn’t. He was just chaos on
And all that slime. It played H… havoc, it played havoc. Daddy had never liked her to use
the other H word. It played Havoc
with her pretty dresses. And
those antlers. Why, only last
night, he’d got the wretched things stuck through the bedhead, and they
thought he’d break his neck, particularly since she wouldn’t stop doing
what she was doing until she was completely ready to stop, and it had taken
H… hours to get them out, what with all his whining and squealing.
No, she just had to leave Chas. But, she’d still have a Christmas
present for him, even though she was leaving him. In fact, Daddy had taught her that you should give
people a present especially if you were leaving them, and it was all
the nicer if it was the sort of present that they didn’t expect, and maybe
wouldn’t look back from. Or
perhaps could only look back from, if their neck was snapped in just the
Chas’s was the only present she was sure about,
yet. She’d have to come back
for it. It wasn’t a thing, so
much as a… a benefit, maybe.
Those antlers had to go.
She remembered stories that she’d heard in church, about people like
Samson and Delilah, and how Delilah had made Samson all neat and tidy by
cutting off his hair; and that should have kept him out of danger, too, if
he hadn’t been so stubborn.
So, she would cut off Chas’s antlers, and make him much more neat
and tidy, and maybe make sure his neck wasn’t broken at some time in the
future. It really was a
gift. Sometimes you gave
people what they needed, rather than what they wanted. It might hurt at the time, but you
had to be cruel to be kind. It
had taken Angelus simply years to make her understand that.
Then there was Spike. Her little Spikelet. She knew he’d be waiting for her when she got back. So, what to get him as a gift? She’d have to think about that.
And Grandmother? What big teeth you have Grandmother. Was she here, or was she… elsewhere? Drusilla couldn’t quite remember
whether she’d last seen Darla in the flesh, dead or alive, or whether she’d
been more… ghostly. She’d have
to find out, she supposed.
What would you give a ghost for Christmas, after all?
And then there was Angel. Her Angel.
She sniffed a little at that thought. He was someone else’s Angel now. The little Slayer. Was she supposed to get a present
for the little Slayer, too?
That was what you did at Christmas. You got gifts for people, even if you didn’t like them
very much. And you wrapped up
some gifts and hid them in the wardrobe so that if someone came
unexpectedly, and they’d got a present for you and you hadn’t got one for
them, you could hurry off to the wardrobe, and write out a little gift tag,
and then you’d have something to give them.
She’d tried that one year, but Angelus had been so very
cross to find that the corpses that she’d stuffed into the wardrobe, with
little blank gift tags round their necks, had leaked all over his white
shirts. So, perhaps that
wasn’t the thing to do.
She didn’t know what to get for her Angel, so how could
she know what to get for his little Slayer, either? She set off once more for the
Mall. She hadn’t got all that
many more shopping days left.
Perhaps a nice little shop girl or two would give her some ideas.
The big jolly fat man settled back into his chair, a
steaming glass of punch in one hand.
Except, he wasn’t feeling at all jolly tonight. He hadn’t felt jolly for quite some
time, come to think of it.
Tonight? Mrs Claus had
kicked him out of the living room and into his study because, she said, he
smelled of the stables. Well,
of course he did. He’d just
been mucking out and feeding damn near a dozen reindeer. What the H… heck did she expect? That he’d come back smelling of
roses? Outside, it was all ice
and snow and the hungry howling of the things in the night. It was definitely not a bed of
roses. And the elves? The elves were all busy making the
sort of tomfoolery that he needed to fill his sacks in a few days’
time. They didn’t have time
for wielding a pitchfork.
By the time he was on his sixth glass of punch, he was
feeling entirely hard done by.
He was a hardworking man… demigod… elemental, whatever, and she
should just cut him some slack, especially at this time of year. Didn’t she understand that he had
all those utterly nauseating pork pies, and all those vile mince pies, made
by tiny, pudgy, filthy hands, to look forward to? Mountains of them.
And oceans of milk. And
central heating rather than chimneys.
No wonder he needed to get lit up to contemplate even starting that
It took him another four glasses of punch before he
staggered into the living room to tell her that she just wasn’t seeing his
side of things. He really did
try – he even offered to turn the reindeer out until Christmas Eve. It didn’t work, though. She carried on not seeing his side
of things all the way to Bermuda, to her Mother. She said she needed to get some perspective. And some rays.
That was the worst thing. She left him alone, here in this gods-forsaken
everlasting night of a place that was so freezing cold you had to wrap up
in more layers than the Michelin Man.
You couldn’t just pop out to a convenience store for another bundle
He went to bed that night feeling unjustly treated, and
he dreamed of hanging people by their stockings, of stuffing whole oranges
down their chicken neck throats, and of making them eat their own homemade
mince pies. The next morning, he
blamed it all on a piece of gravlax that must have been past its
sell-by-date, or perhaps had something strange in the marinade, but Mrs
Claus stayed in Bermuda. She
said she’d missed her Mother.
He turned the reindeer out anyway. They would come back when he
Drusilla was desperate for ideas. It was bad enough thinking of
vampire gifts, but if she had to give one to Buffy, too? And she so wanted Angel’s present
to be a special one.
That was when the idea came to her. If there was one person in the
world who ought to know what would make a suitable choice of presents –
presents to give to anyone – it would have to be Him. After all, He wasn’t attached to
the Christian side of Christmas.
He was all about the pagan side, the side that understood demons
well. Perhaps He was like
everyone else at the festive season, in it for the money, too, she
supposed, but nobody’s perfect.
On that thought, she found herself a nice little second-hand fur
coat, which luckily came with a hot meal attached, and a pair of really
warm boots, then she set off into the unknown.
She enjoyed the journey – she’d seen a lot of the world,
but she’d never been here before.
There was a lot of snow, sheets and sheets of it, as white
and pristine as a choirboy’s surplice, and it looked just as pretty when
she splashed all the blood onto it, too. She liked the strange taste of the people, but the furry
taste of the animals was also good.
The cold didn’t bother vampires, or not much. It just made them eat more, though,
and she enjoyed doing that, too.
There was simply so much choice, here.
She knew that she’d reached the right place as soon as
she found the ice house.
That’s what it was: a
house, a big house, bigger even than any of the ones that she’d lived in
with Angelus, and he always went for the best. It was all made of ice, though, walls and turrets and
spires. All ice.
She soon found the army of little elves, making candy
canes and bobble hats and toy trains, and all the other things that she
remembered children getting for Christmas. Sometimes, she’d even left them alive long enough to
open those presents, but she usually preferred the fun of doing that
herself. She scrutinised the
conveyor line of toys, and couldn’t imagine Angel, or her,
appreciating anything on there.
Still, it was eternal night up here, and the night was young yet.
And then she found the big man in red. She liked red.
She could tell that he was lonely and depressed as soon
as she saw him. If she wanted
him to give her some really good ideas for a present for Angel – oh, all
right, for that nasty Slayer, too – she needed this… demigod… in a rather
more festive mood.
She sidled up to him, quietly, and he didn’t even know
she was there until she ran her fingers through his long white hair. It was so much fun when he
jumped. And then she did one
of the things that she knew how to do best. She rubbed herself up against him, shedding the fur coat
as she did so, and she ran her fingers just there, and there,
and even there, until the red of his nose had spread to the rest of
his face, and his complexion matched his red coat. He started to look a lot happier
She leaned close to him and whispered, “I want some
presents from you.”
He put his arms around her, and he said, “I… I… ah…” and
his voice was a bit of a squeak and so he coughed to clear his throat, and
when he spoke again, he sounded much more manly.
“Tell me, have you been naughty, or have you been
nice?” He added a
rather forced ho-ho-ho, for effect.
She ran the tip of her tongue up his bristly cheek, and
it tickled her, nicely. Then,
just before she bit his ear, she whispered back, “I prefer a different
conjunction. I’ve been naughty
but nice”. And although
she didn’t actually use the word ‘conjunction’, she still got the message
The elves were on their own. For a week.
When Father Christmas woke up, he knew it was late. Calendar late, that was, not clock
late. As he groped around for
the light switch, he couldn’t remember being so… so drained, at
least, not until after The Big Night.
When at last he found the switch, the sudden flaring of
light made his pupils squeak, and he had to put his hands over his eyes for
a few minutes. Even then, he
knew that she had gone. Still,
he’d see her later on. He’d
made her a few promises. Okay,
more than a few, really, but it had been worth it. Even for an eternal demigod, it had
been worth it.
But then he saw the clock. It was half to Christmas night. Time to get his skates on. And his red, red robe.
When he got down, the elves had finished. The sleigh was waiting by the door,
and there were rows upon rows of sacks, stacked all around the room, with
all the little toys bulging through the sides, or sticking out of the top.
Father Christmas frowned. The sleigh looked a bit… twee. Why hadn’t he done something about that earlier? He stood back, critically, and
decided he couldn’t be seen dead in a thing like that. It was the work of moments to trim
it up with something more appropriate. Something that spoke more of midwinter’s night, and
Then there were the presents. Wooden toys and patchwork dolls, in primary colours; and
striped candy canes, in sweet, sugary hues. Life simply wasn’t like that, and the children should
learn to take what was dished out.
Most of them had been little monsters all year, anyway.
Hearts and flowers, that was what presents were normally
about. Well, there weren’t so
many flowers around in the dead of winter. There was still the other half of that phrase, though,
so very red in the whiteness.
He liked red, so everyone else could like it, too.
He did some small magic, and the sides of the sacks
started to bleed.
When he’d finished loading the sleigh, he went outside
to call for the reindeer, Prancer and Dancer, and all the others. When they came – and he’d called
them, so they’d had to come – they looked darker, and somehow sharper. Yes, that was the word. Sharper.
Prancer and Dancer suddenly didn’t seem so appropriate
any more, and so he named them again.
Names like Tusker and Fang.
He remembered the elves. He’d never actually taken any of them out with him, but
he remembered the lies that were told in some countries – that he had an
elf called Black Peter by his side with a long black whip, all the better
for whipping naughty children.
Perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea? And maybe he’d borrow the whip for a certain Drusilla…
mmph! He thought she might
Was there an elf called Peter? He couldn’t remember, so he called the name out on
general principles. An elf
stepped forward, and the Demigod of Winter told him to get on the
sleigh. The rest could be
taken care of on the journey.
Once he’d harnessed the reindeer up, he gave everything
a quick check before setting off.
Sleigh à la Personification of the Ravenous Night, check. Soon-to-be-Black Peter, check. Fresh scarlet robes, check. Sacks full of blood and guts,
check. He ran a finger over
his sharp, sharp teeth, accidentally cutting himself as he did so. A different Father
Christmas, check. He’d still
ask the same question - naughty or nice – and there was going to be a Hell
of a surprise this year for those who gave the wrong answer.
Take Angel, for instance, and Buffy. Boy, were they going to get a
present they didn’t expect. He
smiled, a jagged smile, and clucked at the reindeer. It came out as more of a hiss and a
growl, and they were away.
This would be a night that many people would remember. Or perhaps not. He smiled again. He liked that thought.
We saw that all stories have different places where they
can start. Each story,
however, no matter where it started, has to squeeze through the same
middle. The middle is the…
meat… of the story.
Still, once it comes out of the middle, a story can have
different places where it can finish.
We could say that Angel and Buffy are undefeated
Champions, and they saved the world yet again, and then ate a hearty breakfast.
We could say that Drusilla went to cut off Chas’s
antlers, but he woke up in time to stop her emasculating him, because
demons are definitely not built like humans, and he managed to get Angel on
the new mobile phone he’d just bought himself for Christmas, and warn him
what was coming.
We could say, well, it was time for a new Father
Christmas, anyway; time for someone to make a new definition of winter
We could say that Angelus really liked the
present that Drusilla sent him, and that he made sure that Buffy drank it
all up, too.
Or we could say that, (although Christmas Day isn’t quite
on the same day), once more midwinter’s day requires the sacrifice of the
Chosen One, to ensure that the Sun will rise in the morning, and that there
will be another Summer. A
sacrifice, to save the world.
Which one would you like, as your present?
Have you been Naughty? Or Nice?
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