Feedback: Like Santa needs belief. Feedback and criticism (but only constructive) is welcomed and appreciated.
Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, you all know the drill. I don't own any of the Buffy characters or the words to the 12 days of Christmas.

Pairings: B/A

Summary: In the future, Buffy prepares to spend another Christmas alone. But an invite to a special Charity Christmas Ball changes her plans entirely. Maybe the festive season will turn out better than she could ever have expected…


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

An apocalypse in a pear tree


It was Christmas and she was choking to death. Life really wasn't fair.

Or death for that matter.

Throwing open the kitchen windows she grabbed a tea towel and began to frantically waft the thick acrid smoke away from the open oven door.

It drifted out peacefully into the cold, fresh air as the agonising wails of the smoke alarm crescendoed into a high pitched squeal. Picking up a cookbook Buffy took careful aim and threw it at the alarm, smashing it to pieces and putting it out of its misery. Pieces of its crushed body hung from the ceiling, dangling pathetically, and with one last wheeze from the sensor it finally gave up, dropping to the ground.

A small dent in the wooden flooring was its final, resentful goodbye.

But there was no time to mourn the valiant alarm; the more pressing worry was whether or not Christmas dinner had survived the roaring inferno that Buffy called her oven. Grabbing the oven gloves she took out the tray and placed it on the worktop. A small pile of ashes heaped in the middle of the oven tin were all that remained of what had once been a turkey.

Staring mournfully at the burnt remains, she sighed, opened the bin and tipped it inside.

"Great. Another sucky Christmas once again," she muttered to herself.

Okay, so she wasn't exactly expecting her cooking to be brilliant but she'd expected more than ashes to eat, and she just knew that the turkey was staring down at her from the big turkey heaven in the sky and laughing at her. She glanced up at the ceiling and stuck her tongue out, before resigning herself to whatever was left in the fridge. Which wasn't much.

"But when she got there, her cupboard was bare…"

She wrinkled her nose at some foul smelling cheese in there, (whatever had possessed her to buy that?) and hastily shut the door. There were a couple of lonely vegetables in the veg rack, and a potato that had decided to make a premature escape and was now growing white tendrils in the dark under the rack. A packet of unopened and out-of-date brownie mix lay dusty in the cupboard, along with a jar of marmite and a Fruit & Nut bar.

"And so poor Buffy had none."

Why had she not been like everyone else she knew at Christmas and gone out and stockpiled food as if the world was going to end tomorrow? Which, actually, wouldn't make much sense, now she thought about it, because if the world was going to end the next day then what was the point in buying food?

Maybe impending doom made you hungry.

But she was getting off topic. She'd stupidly put all her dinner in one tin and now it was dead, bird and vegetables all.

One big burnt offering.

Grabbing the fruit bar and shoving it in her pocket, she dumped the tin in the dishwasher and pushed the power button.

Nothing happened.

She tried again. Still nothing.

Right, this was getting ridiculous. A good solid kick to its door finally got it going, and Buffy headed into her living room to flop onto her sofa.

Chewing the fruit bar ungratefully, she glanced around her living room, decked out tastefully in festive gold and green trimmings. The little tree in the corner of the room had small gold lights dotted around it, which glittered dimly in the dark room.

But there was only one present under the tree, and that was from Dawnie. She had been asked if she wanted to spend Christmas with her and her ever growing family but she had declined. And though she knew her sister meant well it would be too hard seeing her as an old lady, bent over her grandchildren, and her new great-grandchildren and enjoying a proper family Christmas.

Too hard now she had stopped aging.

She hadn't seen her baby sis since Dawnie had celebrated her 60th birthday. And that had been a good twenty years ago. She couldn't bear to see how old she had become, the wrinkles lining her face and her back beginning to stoop slightly.

Especially when Buffy herself didn't look a day over 21.

It wasn't that she cared about Dawnie's looks; it was rather that they were a reminder of her own cursed immortality that the Powers had seen fit to bestow upon her as a 'gift'. It was a reminder that one day Dawnie would die and she would be alone.

Completely.

First there'd been her mom.

And once she thought maybe that she could deal with the deep raw pain left inside her, she'd heard from her contacts who still kept an eye on the demon world that Spike and Angel were both dead. Killed in their last battle against the unholy army sent by Wolfram and Hart. The grief remoulded itself and became a living breathing part of her.

And then Giles left too, old age finally getting to him and taking him peacefully, leaving him asleep in his chair.

10 years later Willow and Xander had followed him, a drunk driver ploughing into the car that Xander had been driving to take Willow to see her newborn granddaughter.

And now only Dawnie was left. And to Buffy it felt as though she was just sitting waiting for her sister to die.

"Wow, happy thoughts there, Slayer," said an annoying and familiar voice. "You need a serious dose of Christmas cheer."

Buffy turned to see Whistler standing in the middle of her living room and practically growled at the messenger. Faster than the eye could see, she had him by the lapels of his jacket up against the wall, his feet dangling inches off the ground.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't make good on that promise I made years ago."

Whistler gulped. "The one about the hat?"

"And your ribcage, yeah."

"Cos, Christmas is the time for love and forgiveness?"

The balance demon's eyes widened as he was hoisted higher into the air.

"Try again."

"I'm cute?"

"Seriously?" She said. "Are you trying to get me to hurt you?"

Whistler finally gave in.

"If you kill me then you'll never find out what I came to tell you."

The slayer sighed.

"I know I'm so going to regret this," she said and let go of him. The demon was dropped back to the ground and dusting off his jacket, glanced nervously at Buffy.

"Hey, whatever happened to peace and goodwill to all men?"

"I don't see any men around here, do you?"

"Low blow, slayer," he said, but allowed himself a small smile. At least she hadn't sunk so low in her depression that she couldn't exchange insults.

"So get the message over with and go," she said impatiently. "How much more crappy have the Powers decided to make my life? I've already got the immortality, and a side order of an eternity of being the chosen one. How much worse can they possibly make it?"

Whistler frowned at her. "Is that how you really see it? As a curse?" He shook his head. "Kid, you've got it all wrong."

Buffy snorted. "Right Whistler. Tell me how seeing all my friends die, knowing that everyone I have ever and will ever love will age and die while I never grow old is not a curse." She laughed incredulously. "Sure, that was a great present."

Whistler didn't answer her but instead gazed at her Christmas tree.

"Nice angel," he commented.

The angel in question was perched precariously on top of the tree, her plain white dress delicately over-laced by intricate gold patterns, in swirling loops spreading over her dress in a gold haze. Her ivory wings curved gracefully out from her back and a tiny halo was perched crookedly over her crop of blonde hair. Her hands were folded together in a silent prayer and a small smile graced her lips, as though enjoying some private joke.

"Family heirloom," said Buffy shortly, refusing to dredge up her own painful memories of her Mom and family Christmases long gone.

"You know that angel is special right? One angel in all the world to fit on top of that tree and nothing else would look right up there. Not a star, or Santa Claus or whatever else you can stick on top of a Christmas tree. It's her duty to guard that tree, to look out from the top and know that she has a sacred job, to represent all that is good in the world and to remind everyone that there is hope."

"If you're gonna use the angel as some kinda poor metaphor for me," said Buffy, arms crossed defensively, curled up on the couch and staring in vague disgust at Whistler, "then you're right-she was chosen. Out of hundreds of other angels she was taken. But there was nothing special about her; fate had just decided that she was gonna be even more bitchy than normal. And so hey, she got picked, forced to spend her life alone, isolated, because someone told her she had a duty to do. Nothing else could fit on top of that tree but her, and if she didn't do it then who would? And then when she wasn't needed anymore she got put back in a tiny musty box and forgotten about til' the next year when she was needed again, and then she was dragged out of that box and stuck on top, alone again."

She paused in her rant and smiled sarcastically. "Or hey, how about this- the fairy doesn't know what she's done wrong, but somehow she's been put on top of that crappy tree, and now she's got a branch shoved up her arse."

Whistler raised an eyebrow. "Since when did you start channelling Spike?"

Buffy shrugged and managed a smile that didn't even come close to touching her eyes. "He rubbed off on me after a while. They all did. Even Giles- I drink tea and if you catch me in a good mood, I even manage words of more than two syllables." She sighed. "Besides he's the last connection I have with Angel- and since both of them are gone now it's all I have left to remind me."

Whistler suddenly grinned- a smile reaching from one corner of his face to the other.

"What?" Said Buffy self-consciously. "Did I say something funny?"

"Nope Kid," said Whistler, still grinning from ear to ear. "Just here ya are."

He handed her a small white card, bordered in gold, with a small golden bird in a tree of some kind on the front. Turning it over she found a message on it in elaborately scripted lettering.

A Charity Christmas Ball Is To Be Held

Christmas Day

19:00 onwards

At The Grand Plaza Hotel

And you

The Slayer

Are Cordially Invited To Attend

Buffy frowned up at Whistler. "What? I don't understand. Whoever sent this card can't be human because they know I'm the slayer."

He shrugged. "So they forgot to mention it's a supernatural charity Christmas ball, but whose niggling with their word choice?"

"Me," said Buffy. "That's who." She set the card aside and glanced at Whistler. "What, are you still here?"

"I have to stay til' I know you're going."

Buffy shook her head. "Why would I even wanna go when I can do some quality moping around?"

Whistler dug his hands into his coat pockets. "Cos, if you don't say yes then I've gotta stay here and bug you out of your mind til you give in."

"What a way to get a girl to go to a ball." Buffy laughed cynically. "Send along the annoying demon to take care of it. Fine, fine, I'll go."

Whistler looked put out. "What, you mean you don't need convincing? Not even the tiniest bit?"

"Nope. You're already annoying as it is without trying."

Whistler tried to look as if he didn't care. "Your loss. You're missing out on some quality irritation."

"Thanks," said Buffy. "I think I'll pass." She frowned suddenly. "But what am I gonna wear? It'll be like my high school prom all over again."

Whistler just shook his head and clicked his fingers. "You really need to check your wardrobe more often," he said grinning cheekily. "I'm sure you'll find something to wear in amongst all of those dresses."

"Wow," said Buffy. "You're like the fairy godmother I never had." She screwed up her nose. "And ew, you in a dress, images I never really needed in my head right now."

Whistler shrugged. "Hey it's your mind Slayer. If you wanna imagine me in a dress go ahead, but I gotta say, I never thought that'd float your boat."

Buffy narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Whistler, if you were the last demon on earth I wouldn't find you hot."

"You cut me deep, kid. Real deep."

"Get outta here," said Buffy. "Go bother some other poor person with your annoyingness."

Whistler rolled his eyes but tipped his hat politely at her and then he winked out of existence.

Two seconds later he reappeared again.

"Oh yeah," he said. "By the way, you were wrong. Angel's alive."

Buffy gaped at him in shock, unable to even comprehend what he'd just said.

Angel?

Alive?

But how?

And when… she didn't understand…

"Merry Christmas, Slayer."


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