DISCLAIMER: I own no one except for Anni, Hopie, and Leo, as well as all of the personified weapons. All other characters are the property of Joss Whedon et al.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Final chapter! Merry Christmas, everyone. I may do one more short ficlet over break, so if you have any requests, let me know. Otherwise, look for Things Unseen, coming in mid-January, the third in my trilogy of full-length fics about these characters: when Wes' baby is kidnapped from Lilah's womb by the Watcher's Council, the group must bind together to get him back; Hopie's imaginary friend (just wait, Pyro.just wait); Anni and boys.

May God bless and keep all of you safe in throughout the year in the name of his son Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. Love, gidgetgirl

A Very Hopie Christmas: Chapter Six

The hotel was, for the moment, silent. The moment passed quickly as Hopie opened her eyes. "CHRISTMAS!" she shrieked, waking Connor with a start. Angel and Cordy laughed as Hopie bounded around the room, poking everyone impatiently. "Wake up, wake up, wake up!" she insisted. Angel groaned. "Go wake up Gunn," he said, as it was the first thing that popped into his mind that would make the happy shrieking become somewhat more distant, and hence quieter. Hopie ran happily out of the room screaming, "Gunn!" Cordelia kissed Angel. "That wasn't very nice," she said. Angel kissed her back. "No," he muttered evilly. "It wasn't."

Hopie threw open the door to the room Gunn shared with Fred. "Christmas! Gunn, Fred, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!" She bounced onto the bed. Gunn groaned and Fred slowly opened her eyes. "Mornin' pumpkin," she said groggily to the little girl. "It's Christmas, Freddie," Hopie said happily, tugging on the older girl's night shirt in hopes that she would get out of bed. Gunn audibly groaned again. "Oh, come on, Charles," Fred said, rolling over to face him. "It's Christmas." "I don't care if the world's coming to an end- again- it's seven o'clock in the morning, and nothing and no one is getting me out of this bed." His voice was gruff and firm. Hopie laid her head down on his chest, batting her eyes at them. "Uncle Gu-unn," she said in the cutest voice she could manage. Gunn groaned; he was only "Uncle Gunn" when she really wanted something. "Charles," Fred said softly, giving him a kiss on the lips. Hopie was completely unaffected by the display of affection. She was well used to them. Gunn sat up, sending Hopie tumbling off into the bed, giggling. Fred and Gunn put on robes and followed the hyper Shanshu down the stairs. "Lorne!" Hopie bellowed in the direction of his room. Lorne stuck his face out of his door. "Just a minute princess-baby," he said. "I have to put my face on a bit." Hopie grinned. Silly Lorne and his make up. Soon, they were all gathered in the lobby, in front of the gigantic, weapon-decorated Christmas tree. Hopie's eyes went as round as saucers. "Santa came," she said in awe. Angel sat up a video camera and hit the record button just in time to catch a little dark haired blur flying into a pile of presents. "Go ahead, baby," Cordelia said smiling, "open your presents." Hopie, like any sane child, went for the biggest present first. "Dear Hopie, I know you were a good girl, Merry Christmas, love, Santa," Hopie said, pretending she could read the card. Cordelia grinned and took the card from her daughter. "To: Hopie, From: Connor," she corrected. Hopie, the human whirlwind, made short work of the wrapping paper wrapped around the odd- shaped present messily. She shrieked in happiness when she saw what it was. "A flame thingy!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. "Oh boy!" She stuck her head really close to it, throwing her arms around it in a hugging gesture. "I love him!" she said. She ran to Connor and threw her arms around him, hugging him tight. Connor bashfully returned the hug, thinking how funny his little sister looked next to a full sized flamethrower. Too bad they didn't come in children's sizes, he thought. "Can I try it?" Hopie asked. Gunn and Lorne took a step away from the child unconsciously. "Why don't you wait until Mr. Spike gets here," Angel suggested mischievously. Cordelia choked on a giggle. Hopie nodded excitedly and in a flash made her way through the rest of her presents. Soon, she was surrounded by stuffed animals, board games, and several new weapons. Sitting in Gunn's lap, she showed him her pretty new glaive. "See," she said, delicately touching the end. "It's pointy." Gunn laughed, glad that he had been able to talk Fred into giving the child a glaive along with the set of jumbo crayons. Hopie jumped off of Gunn's lap, and remembering that she had bought gifts, set about the task of watching the others open the gifts she had given them. She shoved a package at Connor. Connor opened it gingerly. No one had ever given him a present before. He pulled out the Grover doll and unintentionally pulled it into a hug before he realized what he was doing. Trying to look tough, he sat the doll on his lap and gave Hopie a gruff hug. "I knew you would like it," she whispered. "You can sleep with him, and then you won't be so lonely at night." Connor blushed. "Your turn, Daddy," Hopie said excitedly. Angel's mouth dropped open when he saw the rubber ducky. He picked it up reverently. He squeezed it, and chuckled to himself when it squeaked. "Rubber ducky, you're the one." He started singing to himself, until, like his son, he regained his desire to appear manly. Then he simply held the ducky in a death grip in his hand, looking at it every so often to make sure he wasn't squeezing the poor little guy too hard. "Maybe you and Momma can have fun bath time with Rubber Ducky," Hopie suggested. Cordelia blushed as she considered her little girl's suggestion. Faith and Lindsey strode into the room. "You couldn't wait for us?" the slayer asked grouchily. "I thought you were having special grown up time," Hopie said seriously. "And Momma and Daddy hate it when anyone interrupts special grown up time." Faith laughed and felt herself being pulled into Lindsey's tight embrace. The two of them made their way to the tree. Lindsey picked up a small present and handed it to the little girl. Hopie grinned at him. She opened it slowly, almost gingerly, sensing it was something very special. She gasped when she saw what lay inside. "It's beautiful," she said, her eyes round. "Look, Momma, look." A tiny sapphire heart on a silver chain rested gently in the box. Cordy looked at Lindsey and Faith, surprised. Faith helped the little girl put on the necklace, while Lindsey explained. "It matches Faith's ring," he said, indicating the engagement ring he had given the slayer. "I had it magicked so that it increased the connection Faith feels through the ring, sort of a magical homing device in case Faith needs to go into Champion mode all quick like." Hopie threw herself at Lindsey. "Oh, thank you, Uncle Lindsey! Thank you, Aunt Faith! I love it. It's almost as pretty as Claude." "Claude?" they both asked at the same time. Hopie gestured toward her new flamethrower. "Wanna see?" she asked. While she was showing them "Claude" the flamethrower, Angel and Cordy were quietly exchanging gifts. Cordy gestured to a large package leaning against the wall. Angel walked over to it and unwrapped it carefully. Staring back at him were Hopie's eyes, and Cordelia's, and Connor's, and his own. The portrait was beautifully done and framed elegantly in a silver frame that looked somehow familiar. Recognizing the etching on the side, his eyes widened. "That's my family shield," he said, thoroughly surprised and touched.

Cordelia nodded. "I had it made," she murmured, "so that your old family could be a part of our family too." Angel looked at the portrait, each stroke of the paintbrush capturing their personalities perfectly: Connor's soft pride and hidden emotions, Hopie's liveliness and sense of wonder, Cordelia's vibrancy and love of life. Angel stared at himself in the portrait. For so long, he hadn't even been able to look in a mirror. Of course, Hopie had changed all of that, but somehow looking at himself, painted into this picture with his son and daughter, and their mother, made his throat tighten as tears came to his eyes. His family. "I love it," he said. "Thank you." Cordelia smiled then, a huge smile that took up most of her face. It had been worth the many trips between photo stores and the many meetings with artists until she had found the perfect one. Angel held up a small package, wrapped in silver wrapping paper and tied with a delicate red bow. Cordelia unwrapped it gingerly. Inside was a jewelry box. She opened it and saw a simple golden chain. "It's beautiful," she said, meaning it. He smiled at her and lifted a second box, wrapped identically to the first. She opened it, gently picking up the engraved locket she found inside. Using her finger nails, she opened the locket. Pictures of Connor and Hopie stared back at her from either side of the heart shaped locket. Tears filled her eyes. "It's beautiful," she said a second time. Angel held up a third box. Her hands shaking, she unwrapped it. Inside, was a ring: a simple gold band with a single flawless diamond elegantly mounted on it. Cordelia looked at Angel, wondering what it all meant. Angel unclasped the chain and slipped the locket onto it. "For being the mother of my children," he said simply, and then, closing the locket, he continued. "The owner of my heart." Cordelia stared at the heart shaped locket, her eyes filling to the brim with tears. Angel slipped the ring onto the chain and clasped the chain tenderly around Cordelia's neck. He kissed her softly. "One day, may you be my wife," he said, holding up the ring, which now rested on a chain around Cordy's neck. "Whenever you're ready," he said gently. "I love you." "I love you too," she replied, imagining the day she would wear the ring around her finger. She intertwined her hands with Angel's. For today, she would wear his ring around her neck. "I am yours," she said softly, and the two of them kissed again. Connor watched from afar, a soft smile on his face. "Well, aren't you going to open the rest of your gifts?" Cordelia asked him. He nodded and turned, more than a little bewildered, to the pile of gifts in front of him. After opening several clothes-filled packages from Cordelia, he was wary of the smaller package she had handed him. Opening it, he found a cell phone. "Free night and weekend minutes," she said. "To call Dawn." Connor grinned like a Cheshire cat. Finally, all of the gifts had been opened except for Connor's gift to Angel and Angel's gift to Connor. Angel opened the chess set, recognition lighting in his eyes at the familiar looking set. He felt as if he had seen it, somehow somewhere before. "Thank you," he said gruffly, pulling his son into a hug. "I'll beat you every night." Connor scoffed. "I think not," he said. He opened his package, not knowing quite what to expect. Inside was a pair of keys. He looked at Angel quizzically. Angel gestured toward the driveway. Cordelia groaned. She had tried, desperately tried to talk Angel out of the motorcycle. Even she had to smile when she heard Connor sputtering in the driveway. As long as he doesn't kill himself, she thought. Leo the bunny hopped happily through the wrapping paper, as Hopie went around tossing it in the air. "Merry Christmas," she sang joyously. Lorne smiled, enjoying the vibes he was getting off of the tiny girl far more than any of his tangible presents. She was such pure, honest, and loving energy. She had brought this family together.

By the time the Sunnydale gang arrived at the house, Hopie was itching to use her new flame thrower, and Connor was getting nervous about giving Dawn his gift. As soon as he was inside the door, Hopie grabbed Spike's hand. "Come on, Mr. Spike," she said excitedly. "You have to meet Claude." "Claude?" Spike questioned. "And who might Claude be?" Hopie giggled and showed him her flame thrower. "His name is Claude," she informed him blithely. "Bloody hell," Spike said, remembering the time she had singed off his eyebrows. "Bloody hell," Hopie echoed cheerfully. Spike paled visibly. If Cordelia heard him teaching her baby that language. he quickly put his hand over Hopie's mouth. As everyone was greeted by their old friends, Anni Wyndham-Price stood off to the side, a little lost in the hovel. She knew these people, and Christmas morning with Wes and the rest of the gang had been wonderful, but just now she felt a little lost. Dawn's squeal broke the decibel record in the hotel, easily. She slipped the ring on, waving it around. Anni looked at it and smiled longingly. Connor felt her eyes on him and leaned in to whisper something to Dawn. Dawn smiled approvingly and nodded. Connor approached Anni and handed the twelve year old the package containing her charm bracelet. Anni, wearing her heart on her sleeve, accepted the package reverently. She gasped when she opened it. "Thank you," she breathed. Wait until she showed her new friends back home. Her grin lit up her face. "Anni, luv," Wesley said jokingly, "you're standing under the mistle toe." Anni blushed something fierce, and Connor, coming to the girl's rescue, placed a brotherly kiss on her forehead. Her blush deepened, but so did her smile. Dawn sauntered over to Connor. "Look who's under the mistle toe now," she said softly. Connor enveloped her in a deep and passionate kiss that had Spike clearing his throat from the other room. Into the silence came Anya's clear voice. "I brought presents, as is the tradition on this holiday. Come, tiny young person," she addressed Hopie. "Have a present." She handed Hopie a small envelope. Inside was a laminated one dollar bill. Hopie grinned. "Money is good," she said. Anya patted her on the head. "What did Auntie Anya teach you last time she saw you?" she asked the little girl. Hopie thought carefully. "Currency is the basis of the great Capitalistic exchange and as such deserves unmitigated honor and attention," Hopie recited dutifully. Anya smiled and tousled the girl's hair. "That's right, tiny Capitalist," she said smiling. Suddenly Anya screamed a blood curdling scream. Everyone stared at her. Leo the bunny hopped curiously closer. "B-b-b-b-unny," Anya stammered. "Devil bunny." She crossed her fingers in front of her. "Back, devil bunny, back." "That's Leo bunny," Hopie told her, picking up the bunny. Leo twitched his nose. "The horror!" Anya shrieked. "Someone get the small innocent child away from the demon bunny." Angel cleared his throat. "That's a special bunny," he said. "It saved Cordelia's life. It's a magic healing bunny. It does this cool thing where purple light comes out of its eyes and." Anya shrieked again. "Shooting laser beams out of its eyes certainly makes it less freaky," she said sarcastically, burying her head in Xander's chest. Hopie sat the bunny down, and Leo wisely hopped away from Anya. Breaking the silence, Connor turned to Dawn. "Want to go on my motorcycle?" he asked her. She beamed at him. "Bloody hell, Peaches, you got him a motorcycle?" Spike roared. "Bloody hell," Hopie mimicked. Cordelia glared at Spike. Spike glared at Angel. The bunny twitched his nose, off in a corner, Anya glaring in his general direction. Connor pulled Dawn close enough to make Anni sigh longingly, as Lindsey picked up his guitar and began playing a Christmas song softly. "Silent Night," he sang softly. Soon everyone joined in. "Merry Christmas!" Hopie yelled joyfully, playing with her flame thrower. She accidentally singed Spike's left eye brow. He yelped. "Bloody he-heck," he corrected himself under Cordelia's gaze. "Sorry, Mr. Spike," Hopie chorused. Anni fingered her bracelet. "Merry Christmas," she whispered to the room at whole. It was indeed a Merry Christmas, the first in her memory and the one that would last in it, untarnished, for the very longest time.

YAY!!!! That's enough fluffiness to last to the New Year, I hope? Let me know what you thought. For the record, you'll be seeing more of Leo Bunny and Claude, and of the day when Cordelia will eventually wear Angel's ring on her finger in Things Unseen. Get in any requests you have now! Merry Christmas, and please review as a Christmas present to me.