There are certain moments that happen in your life that make you realize you are older, suddenly more mature, those times often take you by surprise. Buffy had experienced a couple of those moments lately.

"I can go? Really?" Dawn danced around the room.

"Yes, you can go. Have fun!" Buffy nodded with a smile.

Dawn hugged her tightly enough to almost take even a slayer's breath away. "I was sure you would say no."

"No, you should go enjoy Christmas with your friends, skiing sounds fun." Buffy hugged her back.

"I'll go call Sophie now and let her know I can go." Dawn let go of Buffy and picked up the phone. She started to dial and suddenly put the phone down, her brow furrowed, "Buffy, if I go, who will you have Christmas with? Giles will be with Ava this year and everyone else is scattered. Maybe I shouldn't go. We can have Christmas just the two of us."

"Don't be silly, Dawn. I'll be fine, I think I'll enjoy the solitude or I might just take a little vacation myself. You go - have fun. Don't worry about your old sister." Buffy patted Dawn's arm, "I mean it, I want you to go."

"You're sure." Dawn asked once more.

Buffy nodded, "Very sure, now call Sophie." She watched her sister pick up the phone again and dial the number before she walked to her own room. She sat on her bed, Dawn was so excited she couldn't keep her from going, she'd be okay by herself this year. She picked at the fringe on a throw pillow as she turned on the small radio and lay back on the bed. Soft Christmas music began to play, she closed her eyes.

"I'll be home for Christmas,

you can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams."

Buffy sat up on her bed a smile on her face, that was where she would spend Christmas. She picked up the phone to make sure Dawn was through with Sophie and made a call of her own. She hung up the phone humming to herself, she was going home for Christmas - she was going to California.

Buffy waved goodbye to Dawn and her friends as she made her way to her own gate at the busy airport, it had actually been a miracle that she had been able to get a ticket so close to Christmas. She pulled a magazine from her carry on and settled in for the flight.

Even though she knew he was meeting her the airport, Buffy was still surprised to see Hank Summers actually show up. She did have to give him a little bit of credit the last year or so he had been trying to make it up to her and Dawn, perhaps it was easier for him to play dad when there was an ocean between them. He had sounded excited when she called and asked if she could stay with him at Christmas. He didn't know she didn't intend to spend all of Christmas Day with him. No, she was going "home" for Christmas, even if "home" was now a giant crater. She felt drawn to Sunnydale, she needed to go there.

She spent a lovely Christmas eve in LA. She'd done a little shopping and even walked to the site of where Wolfram and Hart had once been. She had a very small decorated tree that she had left there in memory of two special vampires and one ex watcher. Giles had explained as much as he knew about the final battle Angel, Spike and the others had fought against the elders at Wolfram and Hart. There wasn't much information out there, but he was sure they had all been lost in that alley on that fateful night. Her first reaction had been anger, why didn't they ask for her help? Why had Spike not told her he was back? She soon realized that there were probably good sincere answers to both questions even if they had not been the answers she would have liked to hear. This was the first of those mature defining moments for Buffy.

She had set everything aside and mourned. Mourned Angel for what had once been and mourned Spike for what might have been.She discovered that the "what might have been" can be much more painful than the "what had been".

After Christmas dinner and present exchanges with her Dad and new step mom she asked if she could use one of her dad's cars that evening. Hank wasn't pleased with her choice of Christmas destinations, but gave in when she mentioned that Joyce was buried there, crater or not.

A small flocked wreath decorated with blue and silver balls sat on the seat next to her, this was for Joyce. She smiled as she made the drive to what was left of home, stopping the car just outside the bright yellow tape that still encircled the crater.

Buffy walked carefully to the edge of the hole peering down as if she could see something familiar in the rubble. Memories flashed one after another like a movie in her mind chronicling her life in Sunnydale it ended in a bright flash of fire as she and Spike held hands. Shaking her head to clear it she sat the wreath she was holding on the side of the crater. A tear slid down her face, she whispered, "I love you, Mom."

"She would have liked that."

She didn't have to turn around she knew who the voice belonged to, but of course that was impossible, she pinched her arm to make sure she was still awake, never turning around still afraid that if she did she, wouldn't hear that soft voice that had made her melt so many times in the past.

"You don't have to pinch yourself, Buffy. You're awake and it's really me." A firm hand rested on her shoulder turning her to face him. When she looked up, Spike was smiling at her and he was wearing a santa cap.

She laughed in spite of the fact that her mind was racing, she had so many questions for him, so many "why's" to ask, but right now as he stood before her shining eyes and crooked cap all she wanted to do was hug him. So she did.

Spike was startled he had expected a fist to the nose not a hug, a very nice warm hug at that. He pulled her a bit closer reveling in her warmth, the scent of her hair, the soft beat of her heart against his own silent chest. How could he have ever thought that he could give this girl up? He didn't care if he had to duel the Immortal at sunset he wasn't leaving her again.

"Why did you come here today?" She pulled away looking up at him.

"Silly as it sounds, I wanted to be home for Christmas. You?" Spike grinned at her.

"I wanted to be home for Christmas too."

She lay her hand on his cheek and gently pulled his face to hers. The kiss was soft and sweet and full of promise.

After several moments, Spike finally broke the kiss, "So where are you spending New Year's?"

She laughed softly, "Wherever you are."

The End