A Blue Christmas
(A Divergent Destinies Story)
Written by IceWing (icewing@one.net)

Dawn came running down the stairs, her arms full of presents. "Mom, Faith, look at what I found upstairs!" It was moments like these, few and far between, where Dawn was able to put aside being sisters with a Slayer, drop the fa├žade that teenagers lived with, and simply enjoy life. She dropped the armful of presents on the coffee table where Faith and Joyce were sitting, sipping hot chocolate.

"Where'd you find these, honey?" asked Joyce as she reached for the pile to examine them.

Dawn responded that they had been hidden in the linen closet, underneath the summer sheets. "Can we open them, can we?"

By this time, Faith had found a box with her own name on it, looking at it in shock. "Wonder who would have given me something?" she asked, trying to seem aloof, but wanting to both jump for joy and cry at the same time.

Joyce was holding two packages, one with her name, another with Dawn's on it. She had also found one for Buffy, but as her older daughter was out and about, it would remain unopened on the table for a while at least. "Well, I don't know It's not Christmas yet. Plus, we don't know who left these. I mean, this is SunnyDale. We should probably be careful."

"Oh come on Joyce," said Faith with a laugh. "They were upstairs. Most evil people don't tend to sneak into your house and leave Christmas presents for you. They're probably from one of the gang, or maybe B left em."

"But who? There's no from on the tags."

"Come on mom. It's the Christmas spirit, let's just open them. Can we?"

"Well, I guess"

Before Joyce could even finish her sentence, Dawn had her present in her hands and was tearing at the golden paper. It was a good-sized box, being almost as long as one of the young woman's arms, half as wide and close to six inches deep. As the paper was torn loose, Joyce sighed and Faith chuckled. Some things, not even the Hellmouth could affect.

The lid of the box was pulled free, and Dawn gasped at the contents. Nestled inside the tissue paper, was a gorgeous blue leather jacket. Dawn pulled it free and immediately tried it on. "It's so beautiful," she exclaimed.

"Not bad, D. I mean, its not a proper black leather jacket, but you'll knock em dead in it."

"What to you think, Mom?" asked Dawn as she twirled around to show off her newest treasure.

"Its very nice dear, you'll be the envy of all your friends."

As she went to sit down, her eyes fell on the box where the jacket had laid, and noticed there were more items nestled in the bottom. "Woohoo," she exclaimed as she pulled out three cd's. "I've been waiting to get these, alright!" She started to tear one of the packages open, so she could subject the entire household to the musical attempts of the Backstreet Boys.

"Hey kiddo," said Faith, as she pointed back at the package. "You're not done yet."

"There's more?" said Dawn incredulously as she dug once more into the tissue paper. Her hands emerged clasping a small black box, with a note taped to the top. 'A little something that nobody in this town should be without,' read the note. The youngest Summers opened the box, revealing an ornate Celtic cross on a silver chain. "It's" Dawn was at a loss of words as she lifted it from the velvet and showed it to the other two women sitting on the couch. "Help me put it on!"

As soon as Faith had finished snapping the hasp shut, Dawn bolted to the bathroom to see what she looked like. A moment later she was back, smiling like the cat that had just eaten the canary. "The girls are going to be so jealous"

"And," said Faith with a wicked grin. "You can tell them it was from mystery guy. That'll really get em going." She paused, then said Joyce should open her's next.

"Well, normally, I'd say I should wait till tomorrow, when you're supposed to open presents, but, oh what the heck." In a far more dignified manner than her daughter had displayed, she started to open the wrapping, then said the heck with it and tore the paper off like Dawn had, an innocent grin on her face.

"Way to go, Mom!"

The box itself was a work of art. Carved from a block of cherry, it had the Summers home carved on the front in exquisite detail, down to the tree in the front yard and Dawn's bike leaning against the garage. "Oh my," said Joyce. "This, it's just too much." On the front of the box, there was a small post it note arrow attached, with the words 'Slide Me' neatly printed. When she did, a small section of the wood moved to the left, similar to a Chinese puzzle box. When it reached it maximum range, the lid popped up with a faint click. Lifting up the lid, Joyce revealed the contents.

Sitting on a bed of fabric were two masks, one carved from ivory, the other jade. The ivory mask was a stylized sun face, laughing. The jade mask looked to be a representation of a dragon of some kind, stern features looking out at them. There was a small note pinned to the fabric below the masks. 'Merry Christmas Joyce, I am fairly sure these won't raise the dead.' Finally, taped to the lid of the box, was a gift certificate from a local home improvement store, for two new doors, heavy oak doors with solid steel frames, with installation provided.

"Well," she said with a smile. "Whoever our benefactor is, they have good taste. Looks like its your turn now Faith."

The dark haired Slayer paused for a moment, looking at the package in her hands. "I don't know guys "

"Come on Faith," said Dawn. "You got to see ours, so come on and get on with it. Let's see what the secret Santa gave you."

Unsure, Faith started to slowly tear the paper from the package. It was almost like she was afraid that when she was finished removing the paper, there would be nothing there, just an empty wrapper. Just like her.

But, even going slowly, the wrapping was soon off the box and she peeled off the lid.

She looked at the contents of the box, then up at Joyce and Dawn, then back down again in disbelief. "I can't believe this." Inside, lined up one next to another, were a half dozen hand carved wooden stakes, tapering to an almost needle point. She picked one up, and found that the checkered grip fit perfectly in her hand. In addition, around the base of the stake, there were a series of runes etched into the wood, and filled in with some darker stain. She gently tossed the stake into the air, then caught it as it descended. "Balanced too. Wicked cool." To the right of the stakes, lay a matched pair of small, metal throwing axes, not much larger than a hatchet. She set the stake back by its siblings and lifted one of the blades. "Oh this is just too much," she said as she admired the craftsmanship. "Forget food, the way to a Slayer's heart is with a good weapon."

Unnoticed, Joyce winced, all too aware of the darker meaning of that statement.

Faith noted the leather straps that had supported the axes and lifted out some kind of harness. "Oh, kinky," she said with a sultry laugh, but she sheepishly apologized under Joyce's shocked look. "Forget I said that Dawn," she added with a wink as she held up the battle harness that had been specifically designed for the axes and stakes she had just received. Although she couldn't try it on over her skirt, not in the present company at least, she saw that it was designed to hold three stakes on each leg, just above the knee, and an axe on each upper thigh. It was also designed with hooks and loops for any additional weapons she wanted to attach to it later on. "Santa's getting a big old kiss from me when I find him."

She was about to put all the presents away when she saw an envelope sitting in the bottom of the box with her name on it. With nimble fingers, she pulled it out and flipped back the flap. Tilting it, she let the contents slide out into the palm of her hand. "Concert tickets, with VIP backstage passes, hotel package and airline tickets to the gig in Vancouver. Oh Hell Yeah!"

"What's the band?" asked Dawn.

"Some group called Nickelback. I heard of em when I was back east, kinda cutting edge kinda band. Liked what I heard. But didn't know anybody out here knew about em. But hey, who am I to pass up an all expense paid trip like this?"

"Liked what?" asked Buffy as she padded in from the back door. "Hi Mom, sis," she said as she gave her mom a quick peck on the cheek. "So, Faith," she said as she poked at the masks in the box. "Handing out presents? And nothing for me?"

"Actually, there is a present for you B. But they ain't from me. Secret Santa left em. You'll get my present on the morrow, assuming of course, you've been a good little Slayer. But what I was saying was that part of my present was concert tickets and passes to a gig up by Seattle. Now, my favorite Summers girl is here so," Faith grinned impishly. "Think your mom will let you go kiddo?"

Dawn snickered while Joyce started stammering. "Was just kidding Mrs. S. I know there's no way you'd let Dawnie go on a trip like that, not for at least a couple more years anyway. So how bout it B? You interested?"

"An all expense paid trip off the Hellmouth for a couple of days, heck yeah." She high fived Faith. "Hate to stop and go, but have a couple places I gotta stop tonight. Just stopped for a can of Coke. Nice jacket by the way sis, and mom, have Giles make sure those masks aren't cursed, ok? Later!" And with that, the blonde Slayer was on her way out the front door.

Joyce sighed. "One of these days, I'm going to teach that girl about the importance of family."

The three beauties sat on the couch for the next hour, sipping eggnog and hot chocolate for the next hour or so, as they talked about nothing in particular. It was a break from the normal chaos of SunnyDale that was all too rare.

It was close to nine when Joyce announced that she was going to go start on some of the preparation for tomorrow's lunch. She gave Faith a hug, wishing her a Merry Christmas and told her that she was more than welcome to stay the night. The dark haired Slayer returned the hug and asked if there was anything she could do to help. She wasn't a great cook, but if something needed peeled or sliced, it was right up her alley.

Before Joyce could respond, Dawn chimed in that she wanted to take Xander his present that evening. Her mom turned and gave her a look which, although capable of stopping a charging rhino, had no effect on most teenagers.

"If you're worried about her being out after dark Mrs. S., I'll walk over there with her and then I'll give you a hand when we get back."

Joyce pondered it for a moment, then gave in. "Just don't take too long."

As Dawn ran to get the present, Faith looked at her reflection in the window. 'I wonder what Xander will think of me in a skirt?' she asked herself with a chuckle. 'Probably make him think I'm a demon or something' As an afterthought, she grabbed one of the new stakes and tucked it in the waistband of the skirt. Grabbing her jacket, she gave Joyce a wave and headed for the door.

The streets were almost entirely deserted as the two walked from Revello across the intervening two miles to the once upper middle class neighborhood where Xander lived. Dawn looked up at Faith, thinking not for the first time, how glad she was that the dark haired Slayer liked her enough to take the time to do things like this for her. A small smile crossed her face as she realized that Faith sometimes was more like a cool sister than Buffy ever could be.

"What's hiding behind that disarming cute face and the impish smirk?" asked the Slayer.

"Nothing really. Was just thinking how we're going to surprise Xander by arriving in the middle of the night with presents"

"Oh yeah. And we all know how normal Sunnydale surprises are received." Faith grinned. "Then again, he is male, and I don't know any guy who is going to object to being visited by two gorgeous women in the middle of the night. And I've gotta say, you look killer in that jacket."

Dawn fingered the edge of the collar with her free hand. "Yeah, its sweet. How'd you like your stuff?"

"Well, whoever Secret Santa is, they know what I like. And they've got style. Those axes are wicked and the whole concert thing. Nobody's ever done anything like that for me before." Faith looked glanced around and then at Dawn. "So, who do you think it is, kiddo?"

With a wicked smile that would have looked perfectly at home on Faith, and looked very disturbing on a teen as young as Dawn, the youngest Summers responded that the whole point of a Secret Santa was the person just wanted their gifts to be enjoyed, not get any credit.

Faith looked at her, almost in disbelief, for a moment. "You little shit," she said with a laugh. "You know who it is, don't you." Shaking her head, Faith chuckled. "You're going to be a fireball in a few years. Giving this old lady a run for her money. So, got your eyes on any guys?"

Dawn actually blushed a bit as a result of that question. "Well, maybe. There's this one guy"

"Come on, dish the dirt. Who is he?"

"He's just a friend."

"Which means you want him to be a heck of a lot more. So is he good looking?"

"Oh yeah. Definitely a hottie."

"Does he like you?"

"Umm, I think so, but not in like a girl/boy kind of way. I think he just sees me as a friend or something. For now anyway."

"Well," said Faith as she squeezed Dawn's shoulder gently. "Just don't let him hurt you. A lot of guys, and I'm not saying your guy is, but most of em are, they're not looking for anything real. They want to try as many girls as they can, then move on, so you watch yourself ok?" Dawn nodded, then gave Faith a quick hug. "What was that for kiddo?"

"Just for being you. I mean, you didn't have to take the time to walk me over here"

"Nope, I didn't. But otherwise, you'd try to sneak over on your own Don't give me that look D, you know I'm right. Plus, I like spending time with you. Let's me remember" Faith paused, before she revealed too much. No matter how close she was getting with Dawn, certain things would stay her's alone to know. "Anyway, I think this is the X-man's street."

As the two turned, Faith couldn't help but notice that the once fancy houses had faded to mere shadows of their past glory. Apparently, people weren't the only things that could have the life sucked out of them.

In order to distract her from the all too familiar surroundings, Faith asked what Dawn was giving Xander for Christmas.

Dawn grinned. "I got him a Babylon 5 script, signed by that JMS guy, and a framed picture of me, Buffy and Mom."

"Sounds cool. I take it Xand-man is a Babylon 5 fan?"

"Oh yeah. He's seen like every episode and even mentioned going to one of the sci-fi conventions. There's his house." Dawn pointed at a house across the street and three doors down. "I hope he likes them."

As they crossed the street, Faith's enhanced hearing picked up the all too familiar sounds of a domestic dispute. Her shoulders tensed as she realized that they were coming from Xander's house. Fortunately, the fight quieted as they walked up the driveway.

"Xander's room is on the back side. He usually keeps the window open so any of us can get him if need be, so we don't wake up his folks." Dawn opened the gate and headed around back. A gate, Faith noticed that was well oiled and maintained, whereas the rest of the yard looked run down.

"Oh no," said Dawn sadly. "His light is out and the windows shut. He must be someplace else."

Faith's eyes drifted around the yard. Somebody else was here. Her hand slid under her jacket, reaching for the stake, when her eyes found the other person present. She tugged on Dawn's arm as she said "Nope, there he is."

Neither one of them could believe what they saw. Xander, laying in a sleeping back, outside on Christmas Eve.

Before either one could say anything, the sounds of yelling and the breaking of glass could be heard through the walls of the house. "Sounds like something bad is tearing up the house. Some kind of monster?" whispered Dawn.

"It's a monster, alright," said Faith in a hushed tone. "But an all to human one." She took another look at Xander, noticing the dried tears on his face, and pulled Dawn away. "Let's go."

Dawn tried to resist being forced from the backyard, but there was no way that the pre-teen could resist the strength of a Slayer. No matter how gently is was being used. "We can't just leave. We should wake him up or say hi or something." She looked at Faith, confusion in her eyes.

"Dawn, you're going to have to trust me on this. Xander's folks Well, this isn't the first time they've done this."

"Has he told you something?"

"No, but I'm right. Look at him. He's obviously done this before, and its pretty well thought out. Notice the stakes stuck in the dirt beside him, and the cross hung on the side of the shed. Not to mention the Super Soaker. He's used to it."

"Why hasn't he said something, asked for help."

"Because there's nothing any of us can do. And as soon as we knew, we'd treat him differently. Try to protect him. And that's the kind of thing he doesn't want. Xander wants to be able to help. And he has enough trouble with the gang trying to keep him out of things." She paused for a moment. "Plus, he's ashamed. He doesn't want to let anybody know what goes on at his house. What he goes home to and has to put up with." The east coast Slayer looked at Dawn, meeting her eyes. "You can't tell anyone about this, ever. For Xander's sake you have to forget it ever happened."

Tears rolling down her face, Dawn looked at Xander's sleeping form, before nodding. "Not a word."

As the two headed back to the Summers house, Faith looked back over her shoulder, thinking of the young man, more alone than she was on what should have been a cheerful, festive night. "Merry Christmas, Xander," she whispered so softly that not even Dawn could hear, her eyes moist with unshed tears. And then, as quietly as they had arrived, Faith and Dawn headed back the way they had come.

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