Night, Holy Night - Excedo Inferi #10
by Philip S.
Disclaimer: All characters you recognize from BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and whoever else chipped in. I own but the plot and the few original characters.
Note: This is Excedo Inferi's version of the Season 3 episode "Amends"
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Buffy and Angel's return from Hell drew the attention of Richard Wilkins, dark wizard and Mayor of Sunnydale. To learn more about his opponents, Wilkins hired Danielle Burg to pose as Buffy's private teacher. Wilkins also has to contend with Sebastian Khan, vampire master and his former partner-in-crime. The Scooby Gang have their own problems. Apart from trying to beat Buffy's addiction to Angel's blood, they must deal with the memories of the entire world going to Hell, a brief change in history caused by the Vengeance Demon Anyanka.
-------------------------Part 1: Joyce
Putting plates on the table, Joyce couldn't help but think how very much things had changed since the last time she had made preparations for a Christmas dinner. So many things had happened since last Christmas. Her life had turned upside down, inside out, and she had been forced to look at some things in a whole new light. Not least of which herself and she hadn't much liked some of the things she had seen.
Some part of her mind took perverse pleasure in putting together a list. Okay, so she hadn't known about the existence of vampires and demons last Christmas, though a lot of clues had most definitely been there. She also hadn't known about Buffy being a supernatural warrior chosen by destiny to defend the world last Christmas. That was mostly due to her own ignorance, she had to admit. After all, how many other mothers regularly washed blood stains out of their daughters' clothes?
Last Christmas she had thought that Angel was nothing more than some college student giving her daughter history lessons. Oh, she had suspected there might have been more to it than that, but never in her wildest dreams would she have suspected him of being a 250 year old vampire with a soul who had fallen in love with her daughter.
Also, last Christmas her daughter had still been some twenty-odd years younger than her. Now, thanks to a trip to Hell where time flowed differently, she was roughly the same age, probably a few years older. Not that she looked the part, but it showed in her behaviour and maturity. Her daughter was now a grown-up many times over. She also had yellow demon eyes and vampire teeth, but that was another story.
Their last Christmas dinner had been for two, just Buffy and her. Willow and Xander had made a brief visit, but hadn't stayed. This year, well, she was putting a lot more plates on the table. Quite a lot more.
Aside from Buffy and herself, there was Angel, of course. He and her daughter seldom went anywhere without the other. Hardly surprising, really. Having spent roughly thirty years in Hell together, they were as close as two human beings could be without being connected at the hip. At first Joyce had been far from happy about that, but she was learning to accept it.
Then there was Faith, the new Slayer now living under her roof. Faith was both very much like Buffy and totally different. A young girl burdened with too much responsibility, forced to live through things no child should have to endure. Yet unlike Buffy she relished in being the Slayer, at least most of the time.
Rupert Giles, Faith's legal guardian and Watcher to both her and Buffy, was also coming over. Joyce was not particularly thrilled about him being there. Their recent encounter under the influence of magical chocolate notwithstanding, she didn't like the man. Not really because of who he was as a person, but rather because of what he represented: A group of men who sent young girls, children, into battle against monsters, fully knowing that they would get a new one the moment the old one died. Joyce had nothing but contempt for the Watchers as a group, no matter how noble their goals.
Finally, there was Buffy's circle of friends. Willow was a Jew and her parents were very much opposed to any activity that might even remotely relate to Christmas. Xander, from what she understood, took every opportunity to spend time somewhere other than his parents' house. Cordelia's parents apparently believed that showering their daughter with money was all the parental affection she needed. They would be on some ski trip or other during the holidays. And finally there was Oz, Willow's boyfriend and werewolf. She didn't know anything about his family situation, but he'd be coming over as well.
Nine people in total, none but two of them related by blood, yet a strange kind of family nevertheless.
"Need any help, Mrs. S?"
Joyce looked up to see Faith coming down the stairs. It was still early in the evening and the girl would be heading out for a final patrol before they all sat down to dinner later on. She was already dressed the part, tight leather pants and a barely-there tube top. The jacket draped over her arm was the only concession Faith made to the low temperatures. Low for California, that was. This country hadn't seen a white Christmas in human memory.
"I'm pretty much set, Faith, thank you," she replied, smiling. Faith might not realize it, but the girl had almost completely dropped her tough-girl-façade, at least around the house. It was still firmly in place whenever she headed out, but when with Joyce she behaved pretty much like a teenage girl should. At times it was hard to believe that she was a mystical warrior put on this world to fight vampires.
"Great. I'll be doing a quick sweep, then head to the mall for some last-minute shopping."
Two days ago Faith had realized that pretty much everyone intended to give presents to each other for Christmas. The fact that this came as a complete surprise to the girl saddened Joyce to no end, but the results had been funny in a way. Faith had gone into a shopping frenzy, set on getting something for everyone. From what little Joyce had seen the girl was quite creative using her limited allowance for maximum effect. Still, it appeared she hadn't gotten everything yet.
Joyce had noticed that Faith had seemed to be in a deep funk for quite some time, starting about three or four weeks ago, but didn't know the reason. She knew something strange had gone down around the time, she'd had a lot of really horrible nightmares, but no one had supplied any details. The entire group had been pretty depressed for a while, she'd noticed, so she hadn't called anyone on it.
The funk seemed to have passed somewhat and the spirit of the season was very much present. Joyce just hoped that Christmas would pass quietly and that everyone would have the chance to enjoy the holidays without any vampire slaying or demon decapitating interfering.
She had mostly accepted the fact that her daughter (and her adoptive daughter, too) were leading violent, potentially short lives. But she was still a mother and wanted her girls to have a merry Christmas. She wanted them to spend a nice evening with their friends and families, stuff themselves with food, sing Christmas carols, and open their presents with that glow in their eyes that only kids on Christmas seemed to have.
She just hoped that wasn't too much to ask.
"I'm off then," Faith yelled from the door. "See you later!"
"Bye, Faith, and be careful!"
TO BE CONTINUED