CHAPTER FIVE

"Now what," Spike whispered as someone handed him a penny candle at the door to the cathedral. Angel was already giving Connor a warning look as the boy flicked water around in a finger bowl attached to the wall by the door. Holy water, Dawn realized. Connor anointed himself then waggled his wet fingers at Angel. Angel gave him another glare.

"Just follow Gabe's lead," Dawn said. "That's what me and Willow are doing."

Angel, just in front of them, lit his candle from the large candle in the center of the advent ring of candles. Dawn and Spike followed his lead. Dawn watched, a little befuddled as Connor and Gabe knelt sort of without actually touching ground before they even got into the pew. Luckily, they all managed to fit in one pew. The vampires were put in the center just in case of flying holy water. With Gabe to her left, Dawn sat beside Spike while Willow flanked Angel so Connor could be by Faith.

Dawn banged herself on the kneeler as Gabe lowered it. She watched him kneel - was it for silent prayer? - before sitting back on the pew. At least the non-denominational church her mom had occasionally taken her and Buffy to at holiday time had padded pews. None of that luxury for the Catholics it seemed. There were no lights on in the church, just the flickering candles. Pines and poinsettias adorned every stained glass window and the altar was alive with poinsettias and Christmas trees.

The larger than life Jesus on the cross made Dawn a little nervous. She hadn't grown up following any church's doctrine and hadn't quite been prepared for the crucifix. The statue of Mary adorned with a crown of flowers and the Christ Child state in a real cloth gown were fairly disconcerting. Still, barring that, she could see a little why Faith thought it was romantic. Candle light and flowers; everyone gathered with their families; it was warmer than she ever expected.

The choir started in with the Christmas carols. Faith and Gabe joined in quickly. By the time they got to Silent Night, Dawn and Connor had joined in. Even Angel sang almost under his breath. Dawn was totally unprepared for the incense that was lit, filling the church with frankincense especially as an altar girl carried it through the church in a wildly swinging censer. Mass, however, was a lot longer than she expected and her butt was numb by the time they all filed out into the crisp December night.

"What is with all the kneeling, standing and otherwise wriggling about?" Spike grumped as they walked to the cars.

"Catholic calisthenics." Gabe grinned.

Spike snorted. "No one told me I'd have to hold Peaches' hand and offer him peace or I'd have sat somewhere else."

"We could have put you on the aisle for the priest and his sprinkly ball of holy water." Angel smirked.

"I thought it was kinda interesting. My father would die if he knew I stepped into a Catholic church," Willow said, surprising Dawn. Willow rarely spoke about her family. Her dad would probably die knowing Willow was a witch for that matter.

"Hmmm, you know, it's probably almost Christmas morning where Buffy is," Dawn said and Spike draped an arm around her.

"I think it's technically Christmas morn here, luv." He smiled at her.

She elbowed him gently. "You know what I mean, the type of morning when everyone's actually awake, gift opening and all that."

"Eager to see if the Poof got Junior those therapy sessions he was asking for?" Spike beamed and Faith kept Connor from killing the vampire.

"You are so bad." She tapped his nose then slid into the car.

When they got home, Gabe and Willow both looked exhausted and headed inside immediately. Gabe was muttering about needing to get his turducken in the oven now for tomorrow's feast. Dawn and Connor had watched the Watcher creating the turducken the night before. He enlisted Connor's help because the young man was good with a blade. Dawn was relegated to reading directions because her culinary skills were questionable at best. She watched as Gabe and Connor first deboned a turkey and stuff the legs, wings and cavities with cornbread stuffing. They did the same to a duck and stuffed it with andouille sausage stuffing and lastly a chicken got the same treatment, stuffed this time with shrimp dressing. Dawn had then been put to work boiling sweet potatoes for the gravy while Gabe put the chicken inside the duck and the duck inside the turkey, pinning it all neatly into place.

Ignoring Gabe's culinary worries, Angel looked up at the stars. "I need to go for a walk...to think."

"Want company?" Faith asked hen a worried look flashed across her face. "Expecting trouble?"

"No, to both. Merry Christmas," Angel said, patted his son on the back, giving him a little shove toward Faith, and headed up the hill for Grandview.

"Merry Christmas to you, too, Dad," Connor said, his hand slipping into Faith's. They disappeared upstairs together.

Dawn and Spike went inside and waited for Gabe to quit fussing in the kitchen. Eventually he set the stove on its lowest setting and went to bed.

"Alone at last," Spike said, sitting in front of the tree. He patted the rug beside him and Dawn sat down. "There's a gift I wanted to give you tonight." Spike reached towards the back of the tree. He put a big brightly wrapped box in Dawn's lap. "Go ahead."

"You sure you don't want me to wait until the grand opening come morning...real morning." She tossed her hair back over her shoulders. "You know what I mean."

He cupped her chin and kissed her. "Open it."

Dawn gleefully tore into it. She lifted a fat stuffed polar bear from the box. A green and red tartan bow was tied around its neck. Dawn hugged the bear and Spike at the same time. "It's so cute. Thank you!" She kissed him again.

"You like him?" Spike almost seemed nervous.

Dawn squashed the bear to her chest. "I love him."

"Good. There's a birth certificate from Build-a-Bear in that box and everything," Spike said.

"What?" Dawn dug in the box for the paperwork.

"Birth certificate for Li'l Bit. Okay, so I'm not that imaginative with names." He shrugged. "I built that bear just for you...well, picked it out and stuffed it with this little heart inside for you. Named him and everything. He even donated money to the World Wildlife fund," Spike said, talking fast. He looked subtly embarrassed. "You can buy clothes for him but I felt like a total wanker trying to dress a bear, so naked it is."

"I love him just as he is. He is so sweet and so are you." Dawn stole another kiss.

"Check the bow, luv."

Dawn did and found a cameo pinned there. Her eyes widened as she ran a finger over the delicate pin. "Oh, Spike, it's beautiful."

"I thought so. It was made the year I was born. I lucked into it at an antique shop." He smiled softly. "I've always liked cameos."

Dawn threw her arms around him, crushing Li'l Bit between them as her lips met his hungrily. When she finally broke the kiss, she pulled out a gift from under the tree. "For you."

Spike took off the paper gently, retaining every crease and fold and lifted out three journals. The pages were blank and rough. "Hand made books?"

"I thought you could write your poetry in them," she said hesitantly, afraid he might not like them.

Spike caressed the leather cover of one of them. "They're perfect. Thank you."

Dawn smiled, half afraid she might cry she was so happy. Spike caught her face with both hands, his thumbs caressing her cheeks. "I have another gift for you, if you want it," he whispered.

"Why wouldn't I?"

"We'll have to go upstairs so I can give it to you," he said, meaningfully.

It took a moment for his meaning to sink in. Dawn's breath caught. Was she ready for this step? She answered him and herself with another kiss

A.N. #1: Isabela's on Grandview, the Phipp's Conservatory and Build-a-Bear are all real. You can take a virtual tour of the Conservatory here: and check out the nearest Build-a-Bear here:

A.N. #2 - I desperately want to try to make a turducken (okay, I'm insane, we all knew this) If you're curious, head here for the recipe

Challenge requirements: Romantic or Friendship pairing: romantic
Other character(s) if any you want in the fic: Willow, Angel, Faith
Requests (2 or 3 things you want in your fic): a Classic Novel, a video game, stuffed animal
Restrictions (2 or 3 things you don't want): no mention of Spike/Buffy and no B/A bashing.