Chapter 5 and epilogue: A Slayin' Song Tonight

Faith wasn't unconscious for more than a few seconds, but it was long enough to be almost covered by snow. She shivered with cold as she shook her head to clear the cobwebs away, then remembered what she was doing and bounced to her feet – only to gasp in shock as snow poured inside her jacket. The zipper had been ripped apart as she landed in the snow. She turned around to face Beowulf, her teeth chattering with impending hypothermia. He just stood there, smiling, and somehow focused all the falling snow on her.

"Y-you ruined Joyce's jacket! Oh, I'm gonna k-k-kill you a lot."

As she let loose on the snowman, she could barely feel her fists. Only a couple of hours ago she'd felt warmer than ever before, and now here came that familiar numb, cold feeling, even worse than Boston streets on winter nights. Whatever. Violence helps. She kept pounding away at the hard snow, but snowmen have neither organs nor nervous systems, and there was no sign that she was hurting him at all. Instead he just kept blasting her with her own personal blizzard. The further the temperature dropped, the icier his body became, and the less pain she felt even though her knuckles were already bleeding.

Then suddenly...

"Ahem." Buffy cleared her throat and tapped the snowman on the shoulder from behind. "Uh, 'scuse me? I don't mean to interrupt, but I think you have something of mine."

The snowman whirled around, lashing out with his broomstick, which Buffy easily ducked as she continued talking. "See, I've realised something." Swing. Duck. "This has been an incredibly silly day," swing, jump, "and I've been trying to be the mature one," swing, dodge, " and not behave like a little kid. And I'm sick of..." swing, parry, " It's Christmas. I should be allowed to be a kid for once." Swing, duck. "So I'm going to start right here." Swing, block. She grabbed the broom, pushing it aside, then reached out and yoinked Mr Pointy from his face. "I've got your nose!"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" The snowman's howl in anguish (and a slight Canadian accent) was cut short and turned into a choking whimper when Faith grabbed his scarf from behind and yanked. There were icicles hanging from Faith's eyebrows, but gleeful fury burned in her eyes.

"Ready, B?"


Then they both roundhouse-kicked Beowulf's head off his body, Chuck Norris-style.

It rolled a few yards through the snow before coming to a stop, facing upwards just in time to see the clouds part and the sun finally coming out. "I'll be back again somedaaaaay..." he moaned. And then he was nothing but a patch of extra soggy snow with a little ketchup on it.

The two Slayers high-fived each other as if it was the most natural thing in the world, stood face to face for a second, then sat down on the busted sled and watched as the snow started melting.

"You know..." Buffy said eventually. "This is probably the most ridiculous Christmas I've ever had. And the grossest. And the coldest. And the most sexually inappropriate thought-y."

Faith shot her a curious look.

"I mean with Angel."

"I didn't say nothing."

"Because... Where was I?"

"I think you were gonna say this is the best Christmas ever."

"Don't be ridiculous. OK," Buffy immediately corrected herself, "I know, I just said this whole day has been ridiculous. Incorporeal evils, suicidal vampires, zombie snowmen, Death Sled Race 2000... I mean," she looked hesitantly at Faith, "you're not serious, are you? About this being your best Christmas ever? I'm sure you'd rather be home or something..."

Faith crossed her arms and nodded a little too confidently. "Well, yeah. Obviously. Goes without sayin'. Still, you know, gotta make the best of a bad situation. And on a whole," she looked up at the bright blue sky, "this didn't suck." She looked at Buffy's hands, fidgeting with Mr Pointy. "So... what is the deal with that stake?"

Buffy shrugged. "I dunno. Someone gave it to me once. She could probably have used it herself. I suppose... Oh what the hell. Merry Christmas." She handed it to Faith.

They sat there for a few minutes, watching the snow melt so fast it almost seemed to vaporize. Then Buffy stood up. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving."


And so it came to be that there were four people around the Summers' dinner table for Christmas dinner, two of which had enough appetite for another four. Buffy had once again suggested inviting Giles over, and Joyce had once again eagerly declared that she was sure that Mister Giles had plans. Faith grinned at Buffy, who refused to acknowledge that there was anything to grin about. Later on, Dawn insisted that they play Twister, which Faith enjoyed a lot more than Buffy admitted that she did. Joyce sat and watched them, smiling (except when Dawn tried to impress Faith with a few words that she definitely hadn't learned in this household), sipping on a glass of wine, eating chocolate and really not thinking about band candy at all.

* * *

Over at the old Rosenberg place, Xander had joined Willow and Oz for a non-denominational pizza night with optional presents. After talking to Buffy on the phone about the day's events, they had discussed what could be behind it. Oz had felt very strongly that Queen Elizabeth wasn't involved. He couldn't quite explain it, but somehow she'd become one of his favourite historical people in the past year – it was as if he felt they had something in common that he couldn't quite place. They debated this for a while. Then they watched a double bill of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Die Hard and fell asleep in front of the TV.

* * *

From a window in his mansion, Angel watched the last of the snow melt in a shadowy corner over by the wall. He thought about Christmas miracles, about the redeeming power of love and friendship, about heroes and sacrifices and new births. And most definitely not about that time he and Darla and Spike and Dru ate an entire choir of carolers. That would be bad. Tasty, but bad. Bad. ...He needed to brood.

* * *

Giles was almost done with his rather late Christmas dinner when there was a knock on the door. He went to open and was greeted by an off-key and somewhat slurred rendition of "White Christmas."

"I should have known you were in town," Giles muttered when the song was finished.

"Come on. Is that any way to greet a caroler? Peace on Earth, good will to all men and all that?"

"What do you want?"

"Well, it just so happens that I have two bottles of brandy..." Crash. "Oops. One bottle. And I just thought, well... fuck it, it's been a long, cold day for both of us and we could really do with a night off from the grand ol' good-versus-evil-ancient-order-versus-chaos... thingy. Break out the booze and the vinyl, like the good old days. What do you say, Ripper? Christmas truce? Or do I need to sleep in the stable?"

* * *

Timmy's mother reported the sled theft to the police. Police officer Carl, who knew a little something about Sunnydale, listened to her description of the thief and drew his own conclusions about what sort of "people" dress in 80s clothes in Sunnydale. As far as he was concerned, the kid was lucky to not have any bite marks, and the report was quickly added to the pile of officially unsolvables.

* * *

At Freddie Iverson's place, the editor of the school paper went over the video tapes and photos he'd shot today one last time before mailing them off to CNN, FOX News and Reuters. All except one. Polar temperatures and snowstorms in southern California would probably get a couple of minutes on TV, he'd make a little money on the side and if he played his cards right, there might even be an internship in it for him after graduation. But this one... he looked at the tape he wasn't going to mail out and weighed his options. On the one hand, the Internet just loved this stuff, and there were people out there willing to pay for anything. On the other hand, he liked the idea of not getting his ass kicked by Buffy Summers, not to mention that it was just... what the hell. He sighed and threw the tape in the trash, then went over to his computer and cancelled the registration of 2girlspeeinthesnow dot com.

* * *

And in Tucker Wells' house, poor Tucker sat cold and alone, mourning for his hellhounds who got eaten by a giant snowman. He'd worked so hard at summoning and feeding and training them, and only now did he realise that raising hellhounds to attack the prom was wrong. (And also hard.) Which is what he told his brother the next day.

* * *

And that, children, is the true meaning of Christmas.

Food, fun, booze, crass commercialism, and try not to kill people.