Title: Scrooge Sunnydale Style
Pairing: B/A, but this is mostly a Joyce centered piece.
Summary: Takes place after Amends. Joyce gets visitors in true Scrooge style and changes the outcome of the world in the process.
"Mom, I'm gonna…I won't be back until late tonight. Is it alright if we do the Christmas thing then?" Buffy asked. She kept glancing back at the front door. Joyce peered over her daughter's shoulder. She could see Angel skulking on the porch through the glass panes of the door. She sighed.
"Buffy," she started and then stopped at the look on Buffy's face. Her face creased with concern. "Buffy, are you alright?"
Buffy nodded. "I just…Angel needs me right now. It's not...we're not going to get in any trouble. I need to spend some time with him. I know you don't like him, Mom and I even get why."
Joyce shook her head. "No, I don't think you can, not until you've got a daughter of your own, but go. We'll talk about this later."
A smile graced Buffy's face. "Thanks, Mom."
Joyce nodded. "And tell Angel Happy Holidays."
She watched as the couple walked down the snow-covered sidewalk, hands clasped and utterly oblivious to the world around them. She shook her head and stepped back inside the house. Buffy was entirely unprepared for the future that was to come and she couldn't see how spending it with a vampire could never work. Joyce only hoped Angel, being older and hopefully wiser, would. She hoped the man…vampire loved Buffy enough to make decisions the girl was unable to make for herself. Only time would tell.
Joyce turned the Christmas lights on the tree on, replenished the fire and laid down on the couch, her favorite blanket pulled up to her chin. She hadn't slept much that night. She'd been worried about Buffy. It wasn't long before she drifted off to sleep.
Joyce stirred on the couch. She knew that voice, but hadn't heard it in years. She pushed it to the back of her mind, pulled her blanket up closer and fell back into sleep.
She couldn't ignore the voice the second time. She opened her eyes, certain she'd find that she'd been dreaming. A smile came to her face when she found she had not.
"Celia?" Joyce sat up. Her niece had died in the hospital years ago and yet she stood before her dressed in a bright red, Christmas velvet nightgown. She swayed, setting the tiny bells that adorned the hem of her gown to jingling.
Celia nodded. "Merry Christmas, Aunty Joyce."
"I know. It's okay. I came to show you things. They were gonna send someone else, but I wanted to do this part."
"Show me things?" Joyce asked.
Celia nodded and held out her small hand. "It won't hurt. Just take my hand."
Joyce reached out hesitantly and took Celia's seemingly solid hand in her own. The room flashed, like a bright bulb from a camera, and the picture had changed. They were in the Summer's living room in Los Angeles. Joyce glanced down at Celia, who still held her hand. Celia smiled and held her finger to her lips, then pointed at the living room entry. At that moment a six year old Buffy crept into the living room.
"Buffy, you're not supposed to be up before daylight. How's Santa Claus supposed to come if you won't sleep?"
Joyce turned at the sound of her own voice to see a much younger version of herself sitting on the couch.
Buffy wrinkled her nose. "I'm scared of the dark, Mommy."
The younger Joyce smiled and patted her lap. Buffy flew into her arms. The older Joyce ached for the days when her arms had taken away all of Buffy's fears.
"You know, you don't have to be scared of the dark."
"Why?" Buffy asked, never satisfied until all her curiosity had been sated.
"Because you've got a guardian angel," Joyce explained.
Buffy's face lit up at this suggestion. "I do?"
Joyce nodded and snuggled her small daughter close. "You do."
"Is he waiting to get his wings, like Clarence in the movie?"
The younger Joyce laughed. The older Joyce remembered that it had once been a Christmas tradition to watch It's a Wonderful Life. Buffy had outgrown that tradition about the time she turned thirteen.
"Yes, baby, he's waiting to get his wings just like Clarence."
"And if he does a good job of guardian-ing me will he get his wings?"
"You mean guarding and yes, if your angel does a good job of guarding you, he'll get his wings," Joyce said.
Buffy wrinkled her nose and gnawed her lip in contemplation. "Guess I better go upstairs and go to sleep so he can start guarding."
Joyce smiled. "You better." She released the little girl and watched her run up the stairs to her room.
"Come on, time to go," Celia said.
The older Joyce looked down at her. "What? There's more to this memory. I remember. Buffy comes back down."
Celia nodded. "Yeah, but you've seen what you were meant to see."
The room went flash bulb bright again and faded to the Sunnydale living room.
"I got to go, Aunty Joyce. There'll be other people tonight. Don't worry. They're nice."
Joyce woke with a start, hands scrambling at her blanket. She sat up on the couch and looked around the room. "Celia?" She immediately felt silly for calling out her dead niece's name. It had just been a dream. Joyce stood up, raked her fingers through her hair and started for her bedroom. She jumped again when she stepped on something. She moved her foot and bent to pick up the tiny golden jingle bell she'd stepped on.
"Okay, Joycey, I think you've had a little too much Holiday stress on to little Holiday sleep," she mumbled to herself and went up to her bedroom where she could rest properly.
"Joyce, sweetie, wake up. I've brought brownies."
Joyce was shaken out of her sleep by the voice. She rubbed her eyes and sat up on the bed to see Pat, the woman who had befriended her while Buffy had been gone this past summer, the woman who was dead.
The blonde smiled and nodded her head. "Oh, I know I'm dead. That doesn't mean I can't make brownies and visit my friends, now does it?"
"I-I suppose not," Joyce stammered.
Pat nodded and held out her hand. "Now come on, we've got to go. There will be plenty of time for brownies later."
Joyce placed her hand in Pat's. The room went bright and then dimmed to a scene outside. Joyce glanced around. She recognized this hill. It was a clearing behind the mansion Angel lived in.
"This was earlier tonight, the Christmas Present," Pat offered in explanation.
Joyce watched as Angel grabbed Buffy roughly. She stepped forward and Pat laid a hand on her arm. "Watch," she whispered and pointed to the couple.
"Am I a thing worth saving? Huh? Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!" Angel shouted.
Buffy crumbled. "What about me? I love you so much…And I tried to make you go away…I killed you and it didn't help." She shoved him away from her and stood up. And I hate it! I hate that it's so hard…and that you can hurt me so much. I know everything that you did, because you did it to me. Oh God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don't. I can't."
Angel stood up. The pain in his voice ripped through the air. "Buffy, please. Just this once…let me be strong."
Joyce covered her mouth with her hand, realizing what the vampire was asking her daughter to do. Pat looked at her nodded and then pointed again at the couple.
"Strong is fighting! It's hard and it's painful, and it's every day. It's what we have to do. And we can do it together," Buffy swore.
Joyce watched feeling like an intruder as Angel struggled with Buffy's words.
"But if you're too much of a coward for that, then burn. If I can't convince you that you belong in this world, then I don't know what can. But do not expect me to watch. And don't expect me to mourn for you, because…"
That's when they noticed the snow had begun to fall. Joyce and Pat watched as the couple joined hands and started down the hill, still in silent awe of the miracle that had befallen them.
"The snow…this is why we have snow today?" Joyce asked Pat.
Pat nodded. "I have to go now, Sweetie. You enjoy the brownies though."
Joyce sat upright in bed. Somehow she was unsurprised to see the Tupperware dish of brownies sitting on the nightstand. She shook her head; all in all this had been a weird Christmas. She got up deciding to give up the wild goose chase sleep seemed to be leading her on. She picked up the brownies, carried them downstairs and began to make coffee. She turned, nearly dropping the full cup at the sight of a dark headed man standing in her kitchen. He smiled and tipped his hat at her.
"Any chance I could get a cup of that before we go?"
"I-uhm-cream or sugar?" Joyce asked once she'd recovered her voice.
The man shook his head. "Nah, I'll take it black. Better hurry though, we've got places to be and I'm really not supposed to stop for coffee."
"Of…of course," Joyce started to pour a cup of coffee. "Do I…Do I know you?" She asked, handing him the cup.
"Me? Nah…I'm the one person you'll see tonight you don't know. Well, I'm the one person you'll talk to tonight that you don't know. I'm Whistler; I work for the people providing you this Christmas entertainment, The Powers That Be. Come on, places go, apocalypses to see."
A crack of thunder threw the room into darkness, when Joyce's eyes adjusted she realized they were no longer in her cozy, Sunnydale kitchen. They were standing on a fire escape in an alley, rain pouring down. Whistler pointed to the ground.
"Right down there. That's where all the action takes place."
Joyce watched as Angel ran into the alley. The vampire looked older, worn. "This is…the future?" She guessed. It made sense. She'd seen the past and the present. This would be the future portion of the evening.
Whistler nodded. "Not Christmas though, this is a little later around May, which seems to always be when the world ends. Geez, he looks like Hell. I thought that was over along with the rat eating. Such a disappointment to see how your projects go awry. You raise 'em up, try to steer 'em right and they screw it all up anyway."
Joyce glanced at the man but before she could say anything more people began coming into the alley. There was Angel, the vampire named Spike that Buffy knew, a woman with blue streaks in her hair and a young black man bent over almost double. "They've been in a fight. Some of them are hurt," she said.
Whistler nodded. "Watch."
She did. Joyce watched as the armies of Hell filed in. She watched as Angel took on the dragon and was ripped to pieces for his efforts. She watched as the young man fought even though it was obvious he was grievously wounded. She watched him die and the armies trod over his body. She watched Spike turn to dust and finally the woman with the blue streaks fell. The armies, the dragon rampaged over Los Angeles, tearing what was left of it to pieces.
"You must be something special," Whistler said.
Joyce looked up at him. She'd almost forgotten the man was there. "What do you mean?"
"Powers giving you a front seat for the end of the world doesn't happen often like this."
"The end of the world?" Joyce asked, her eyes widening.
"The Apocalypse, Armageddon, dress it up anyway you like, all means the same thing. Fiery destruction, painful end."
"Can't the Powers send another miracle to save Angel, to save the world? Like they did with the snow?" Joyce asked.
Whistler considered her question carefully. "They did."
"Then it didn't work. They've got to send another."
"The miracle they sent would have worked, if it hadn't been adverted." Whistler lit up a cigarette as he spoke.
"Adverted? What miracle?" Joyce asked.
"Of course, Buffy will stop this," Joyce breathed a sigh of relief.
"No, she won't. Not with out Angel," Whistler said.
Joyce shook her head. "I don't understand."
"She was supposed to be here. Big prophecy about a warrior of light and a warrior of dark, only Wolfram and Hart hid that thing so deep even the brains Angel had working on his side couldn't find it. A few years ago something happened, estranged those warriors. He's too proud to call and ask for her help. She's too proud to be the one that comes back."
Joyce shook her head. "So the world just ends because of pride?"
Whistler chuckled. "How did you think it would end?" He shook his head. "You know the Powers don't give this little show and tell to everyone. They keep me on a need to know basis, so I'm as lost as you are. Come on, I've got an appointment with this Irish guy named Doyle at a pub. Something about a re-assignment, thought he was going to Los Angeles."
"Who are you?" Joyce asked a tired, desperate plea in her voice.
Whistler chuckled. "I suppose you could call me the Sunnydale Welcome Wagon courtesy of the Powers that Be. I handle all the agents of good coming in and out of Sunnydale. First Angel, now apparently this Doyle guy. Gotta go, thanks for the coffee."
The shattering of a saucer on the tile floor jerked Joyce out of her daze. She shook her head and got out the broom, cleaning up the shards of the saucer. She sat down at the island to ponder the odd morning she'd had.
"Just call me Ebenezer Scrooge," she muttered to the silent kitchen.
Five Months Later:
Joyce knocked on the mansion's door. She hadn't expected Angel to live in such grand surroundings. He opened the door, careful to stay behind the sun that followed her in. They went through the motions of polite small talk. He offered her a beverage; she declined and then decided to get right down to business.
"I understand that Buffy spent the night."
"I'm sorry about that. We came back after patrol," Angel apologized.
"I-I'm not interested in the details. That's not why I'm here," Joyce said.
"I'm here because I'm worried about you two in general," she started. She'd rehearsed this all morning, planned it for days. Buffy was staying in Sunnydale now, going to school at the local community college. She had begun to worry about the future Buffy would have with Angel with a renewed fanaticism. She swallowed hard, prepared herself to begin her speech.
"Because you've got a guardian angel."
"Can't the Powers send another miracle to save Angel, to save the world? Like they did with the snow?"
"They did. Your daughter."
Joyce gasped; the words from her Scrooge experience clawed their way up through her mind and echoed in her ears.
"Ms. Summers?" Angel inquired. He took her elbow gently and led her to the couch to sit down. "Are you alright?"
She shook her head. "I'm…I'm fine."
"The miracle they sent would have worked, if it hadn't been adverted."
Angel sat down on the other end of the couch. "You were saying something," he gently prodded.
She shook her head and pasted a bright smile on her face. "I-I worry about you two. The future you're going to have, Buffy's going to have, will be difficult."
Angel nodded. "I know. We're from two different worlds."
Joyce smiled. "I know you care about her, Angel. And it's obvious she cares for you. I-I don't know what I came here for. I just worry. I don't know what the protocol for this is, but I want Buffy to be happy, but above all I want her safe."
A smile shot across Angel's face. "I want the same thing, Ms. Summers. I'll do everything in my power to make sure it happens."
"I'll let you get back to…whatever you were doing. I didn't mean to interrupt." Joyce stood up and walked toward the door.
Angel opened the door for her and paused. "Ms. Summers, I know this has got to be hard for you, but Buffy…she's my miracle."
Joyce smiled, tears shone in her eyes. "And I think maybe you're her guardian angel."
Angel ducked his head and scuffed his foot. "If it's in my power to keep her safe, I will."
As he shut the door behind Joyce's retreating form, he swore he heard her say "One day I hope you get your wings, Angel."