Happy Thanksgiving! Apparently my muse was feeling festive. This is pure fluff. Normally I'd say "ew" to pure fluff, but it seems that the holiday really got me. Enjoy! Also, these characters belong to Joss Whedon. I'm being way too nice to them for me to possibly be him. This is set after "Season 8" (my season 8, not the comic, with which I have many, many issues), but you don't necessarily have to have read it for there to be sense-making here. Also, it was written before I started my "Season 9", so it doesn't quite match up, but I'm too lazy to change it.
Buffy wasn't sure if this was a Slayer dream or something her subconscious was just making up. She was galloping across the plains of Nevada on a lanky thoroughbred. The sun was just about to set and had turned the sky into a watercolor of every hue imaginable in its descent. She had a vague sense of purpose as she rode on. There was somewhere she needed to be when the reddish disk sank beneath the horizon. Her crossbow bounced an even tempo against her back with every loping stride of her horse, hidden beneath the wide-brimmed hat that had blown off her head in the wind. The dying rays of the sun glinted copper off the hilt of her sword, which was securely strapped to the saddle and easily within reach.
She was distracted from her mission suddenly by a sensation on her neck that was distinctly unrelated to the tugging of the cord of her hat. What? Hey, that wasn't part of this story! She leaned forward and urged her horse on a little faster, trying to push past the distraction. She could see her destination looming in the distance. The ghost town shimmered slightly in the residual heat of the day. But, try as she might, she was still slipping away from it. The scenery and the movements of her steed dripped away from her like water from her cupped hands.
Angel hadn't done it on purpose. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He had been content to watch her sleep at first; it was something he doubted he'd ever tire of doing. But before long, she had simply become too irresistible, dreaming peacefully there in his arms. He began a trail of gentle kisses from just beneath her ear down the slope of her neck, where he lingered at her scar. She stirred then, uttering a faint moan of protest, and he smirked mischievously without stopping what he was doing.
"Mmm, what'd you have to do that for?" she murmured sleepily even as she snuggled deeper into her husband's warm embrace, "I almost made it to the ghost town."
"Sorry," he breathed against her neck, and she forgave him instantly in spite of herself.
"No you're not," she said, a smile breaking out across her face. She struggled to suppress it, wanting to feign sternness, but her efforts were in vain, for he had chosen that moment to start tickling her. She immediately erupted into giggles and felt the rumble of his responding laughter against her back. She smacked him indignantly with her pillow before abruptly rolling over in his arms and capturing his lips in a kiss, which effectively put an end to the tickling.
He pulled her even closer to him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and they lost themselves in the kiss. It wasn't long before Buffy began to grow increasingly frustrated with the presence of Angel's undershirt and boxers, while he harbored similar resentments against the barrier of her tank top and pajama pants, but the morning sunlight streaming into the room and the nagging reality of rapidly approaching obligation kept them clothed.
"Still wish you were asleep instead?" Angel asked with yet another smirk when they eventually resurfaced.
"I already know how this ends," she said, smiling coyly and planting a quick kiss on his lips. "But the dream was a new story, and you made me put the book down right before the climax." She ended on a pout.
"Maybe you'll get to finish reading later. Was it one of those Slayer ancestral memory things?"
"I think so. I'll ask Giles if he knows about any 'Wild West' Slayers." She frowned.
"What?" he asked.
"I suddenly want to watch a lot of John Wayne movies," she said. He chuckled.
"Could be good for some clichéd fun."
"Plus, we were going to spend most of the day getting Thanksgiving dinner ready with the gang, so now we have something to do after we're done eating." Buffy's smile widened when she saw his eyes light up at her words. It would be his first Thanksgiving dinner as a human, and she was going to make sure it was absolutely perfect—even if it earned her the Housewife of the Year award. She remembered the last Thanksgiving dinner she had gone to great pains—literally, what with the full-scale Indian attack—to prepare, and surreptitiously rapped her knuckles against the wood of her nightstand when they finally got up.
Buffy and Dawn began to sort the through the food items acquired the previous day while Angel left in search of the most unadulterated genre-defining black-and-white Westerns known to man. Willow and Oz arrived bearing monkey bread and funeral potatoes—prompting Oz and Dawn to speculate in bemusement on the origins of the rather nonsensical names while they helped Buffy and Willow shell peas. By the time Angel returned with High Noon, Red River, and How the West Was Won, they had been joined by Giles, Xander, Renée, and Connor, all of whom dutifully brought yet more food and amicably aided in the preparation of the main dishes.
Connor's family had gone on vacation to Montana to visit relatives, but he had stayed behind for school and to spend Thanksgiving with the people he was rapidly coming to equate with family anyway. It helped, of course, that they included both the girl he was thoroughly head-over-heels for and his real father, with whom he had never been on better terms.
"So, Buff, what's with the impending Western marathon?" Xander asked as he chopped potatoes with her, having noticed the stack of Blockbuster acquisitions waiting on top of the TV.
"Angel woke me up from a dream that I think was about a Slayer in the Old West," she said, shooting a teasing glare over at the culprit, who responded with a wicked grin as he worked on the turkey gravy with his son.
"How intriguing!" said Giles. "Would you like me to check the Watcher Diaries for her?"
"If you like," said Buffy, knowing perfectly well that he would like nothing better than to do just that.
"Where did you get such a big turkey?" asked Renée, who, being Scottish, had never experienced Thanksgiving dinner before, though she had already made a mental note to take the tradition back with her whenever she next visited her homeland.
"We bought it at a butcher's," said Willow, finishing off the last preparations needed before the massive bird was ready to go in the oven.
"Yeah, I've tried hunting them down in the wild, wolf style, but it gets kinda messy," said Oz in his trademark unfaltering poker face. Renée raised her eyebrows, not sure whether she wanted to laugh or cringe at this. Willow noticed and grinned at Oz, who seized the opportunity to kiss her before helping her slide the turkey into the oven.
Dinner lasted at least an hour, and everyone there was hard-pressed to remember a more enjoyable time they'd had together. Laughing at each other's jokes and somehow managing to eat at least two helpings of everything, it was a picturesque moment that they all knew they wanted to repeat in years to come. Even Xander and Angel got along, which had unsurprisingly remained a rare occurrence in spite of the latter having been back among the living for over half a year.
Once they were all so full of excellent food that they felt like they could easily go into hibernation for about a month, they moved to the living room to watch the first movie, wisely saving the five pies and Dawn's masterpiece dessert of mouth-watering apple dumplings for after they'd had time to digest a little. Buffy and Angel were curled up on one end of the enormous leather couch, with Willow and Oz snuggled together at the other. Rather than attempting to occupy the middle cushion between the two recently married couples, Connor, Dawn, Xander, and Renée claimed both of the matching loveseats, leaving the large, comfortable recliner for Giles.
They managed to get all the way through High Noon with only minor post-dinner drowsiness to contend with, but the pie and dumplings ultimately proved to be their undoing. Giles was the first one to succumb to the comfortable, sleepy atmosphere, and by the time they were halfway through Red River, they had completely lost Connor and Dawn as well. Their chests rose and fell together, her head against his shoulder. Renée barely noticed when Xander's head began to nod beside her a few minutes later, as she was completely fascinated by the genre with which she had been largely unfamiliar prior to that afternoon. Willow didn't last much longer than Xander, and Oz drifted off contentedly to the sounds of the movie and her gentle snores beside him.
The last emotion Buffy was aware of as her eyes fell slowly closed was triumph at a perfect Thanksgiving. It hadn't been diligent cooking and slaving in the kitchen on her part that had made it so; but the warm companionship of preparing and enjoying it with the people she cared about most. Angel looked down from the TV screen at his wife's face, his expression softening at the sight of her once again sleeping peacefully in his arms. He kissed the crown of her head gently and stroked her hair, but he let her sleep this time.
The abandoned town loomed before her. The heat haze made it seem closer than it was, but her horse had miles in him yet, and they would make it just in time for sundown. She slowed the horse to a rapid trot as they came around the first of the drafty, rotted wooden structures on the outskirts of the town. After a few more minutes, as the last sliver of the sun sank out of view, they rounded the corner onto the dusty main road. It was lined with buildings on both sides, complete with a swinging door saloon, rusty water tower, and jail.
Buffy dismounted easily and tied her horse's reins to one of the posts in front of the saloon. She gave the magnificent creature a grateful pat before placing her now dust-covered white hat back on her head, strapping her sword belt on, and holding the loaded crossbow loosely at her side. She turned to see a tall figure down the street. He wore a long, weather-beaten brown coat, and his demonic yellow eyes regarded her calculatingly from beneath his black hat. His lip curled to reveal wicked fangs as he took in her calm demeanor and obvious familiarity with the steel at her hip and the crossbow in her hand. He turned his head and spat on the ground beside him.
"This here's my territory, Slayer!" he growled. Her only reaction was to smirk at the glimmer of fear she saw in his eyes as they came to the unavoidable standoff.
Hehe. I really have no idea where the Western theme came from, since my dad's the one who's big into Westerns, not me. Now I sort of do want to watch them, though. Huh. Anyway, wasn't I so very subtle about how Buffy and Angel are married? And Willow and Oz? Hee. Love. Yes, my stories do pretty much all spring from the same fantasy world. In fact, if I get around to writing a season nine, this fic might be incorporated into one of the episodes, but I really don't know yet. Incidentally, the scene after Angel woke Buffy up is as romantically heated as you'll ever get from me--and that certainly will apply to the hypothetical season nine. Deal with it. Oh, and about Renée. I didn't make her up; she was in the comic season eight, a Slayer, and Xander's new love interest--until she got skewered by a vamp. In my season eight, she's rather more fortunate. Now, on the subject of food, which is of course infinitely more interesting. Monkey bread, in case you didn't know, is basically rolls cooked in an upside-down cake tin with loads and loads of butter, and funeral potatoes are a sort of cheesy, creamy potato casserole of pure goodness.