"Mommy, Daddy, wake up! It's Christmas! Wake up, it's time for presents!"

Buffy and Angel stirred groggily. The latter mumbled something indistinctly, while the former attempted to snuggle closer to him. But that wasn't good enough for their entirely-too-energetic-for-this-hour-of-the-morning four-year-old, who clambered impatiently onto the bed and started jumping. Even better, she seemed to have brought Doyle, their rather taciturn gray tabby, and he was certainly not pleased.

"Okay, okay, Kathy, we're up," said Angel as he and Buffy sat up. Doyle seized the opportunity to dart away again. Off to bother their other cat, Cordelia, no doubt. It had been that habit of irritating each other that had earned them their names in the first place.

"Yay!" said Kathy delightedly, the jumping diminishing to an excited bounce. "Merry Christmas, Daddy!" She leapt into Angel's arms and hugged him, and he smiled and affectionately returned the hug in spite of his tiredness. Kathy then proceeded to do the same to Buffy. Her joy was proving incredibly infectious, though that was nothing unusual. Buffy looked at the alarm clock on her bedside table and rolled her eyes. Eight o'clock. Much better than last year, when she had woken them up at five. They were supposed to be up now anyway, since everyone was coming over to spend Christmas Day together in a little over an hour.

"Daniel, Tara, Jesse, and Steven will be here soon," Buffy told her daughter, whose grin promptly doubled in size. "So go get dressed, okay, sweetie?" Kathy nodded vigorously, before bouncing back off the bed and skipping out of the room. They could hear her singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" quite a few notes off key as she headed down the hall. Angel turned, still smiling, and wrapped his arms around Buffy, who thought about what lay waiting for him under the tree and tried not to let her own grin look too suspicious. It didn't work.

"And what's that about?" he asked in the deep rumbling tone that he knew perfectly well would turn her defenses to mush.

"You'll find out," she said evasively. Knowing what he was up to, she hastily prevented him from continuing the interrogation by reaching up to pull his head to hers for a rather mind-blowing morning kiss. The suspense of not telling him that she was pregnant with their second child was almost like torture, except that torture generally didn't make her as excited as the little girl who was now singing "Jingle Bells" in the room down the hall. It had about driven Buffy insane, but she had made it through the whole week without spoiling the surprise. Not that there hadn't been close calls. At one point, she had almost let it slip to Dawn. If she hadn't caught herself just in time to change direction mid-sentence, it would have ended right there. She strongly suspected that Willow had told Oz, but wasn't particularly concerned about that. If anyone could keep a secret, Oz could. And in just over an hour, she wouldn't have to worry about keeping it anymore.

The kiss had gone on, progressing rapidly from tender to passionate, and was about to become something else altogether, when Kathy burst back into the room without warning, forcing her parents to keep things PG, much to their displeasure. They hid it well, however, when they hastily broke apart at Kathy's loud, indignant "Ewww!" and looked towards the door. She was now out of her pajamas and into jeans, Christmas sweater, and matching socks, but her hair was still in desperate need of attention, for it had dried rather interestingly from last night's bath as she slept.

"Okay, come here, Bug, we've got work to do," said Buffy as she and Angel at last got out of bed. He moved to the dresser and pulled out boxers, black pants, and a dark red button up shirt, while she picked up Kathy and left the room, turning over various ideas for cute hairdos in her mind.

Somehow, they managed to be ready by nine, but it was a close thing. An incident involving Kathy's Cocoa Puffs and one of the cats lying in wait in the cupboard had required both Kathy and Buffy to change clothes, leaving Angel to clean up the mess in the kitchen for having dared to laugh at them. Then he had to keep holding onto Kathy so that she wouldn't sneak off to the tree and start opening presents without them.

Connor and Dawn were the first to arrive, crossing the threshold in a whirl of snowflakes, Dawn clutching a squirming Steven and Connor all but obscured from view behind the stack of presents he carried. Then came Xander and Renée with Jesse, who ran between the grownups' legs to find Kathy. A few minutes later, Willow and Oz came, and Daniel's and Tara's giggles were added to those of the other three children. Finally, drawing shrieks of delight from all five kids (and badly suppressed sniggers from most of the adults), Giles appeared, fully decked out in a Santa suit and carrying his guitar.

Buffy's excitement—and having to contain it—was almost more than she could stand. She tried to siphon some off into taking pictures of Kathy, who was happily hugging the large stuffed tiger she had just unwrapped as she sat in a sea of shredded wrapping paper. Willow kept shooting Buffy furtive glances throughout her own photography session with the twins, who were currently having more fun throwing wrapping paper at each other than unwrapping more presents. Renée was somewhat preoccupied trying to keep Jesse from shooting the traumatized cats with his new Nerf gun, and Dawn smiled as she watched Connor help Steven open presents wrapped a tad too stubbornly for a twenty-month-old.

Finally, after Angel had finished thanking Willow and Oz for the sketchbook and charcoals they had given him, Buffy decided it was time. She made her way carefully through the paper explosion to the tree and retrieved the small package, before going to sit beside her husband. He turned to smile at her, and she kissed him on the cheek.

"Merry Christmas, Angel," she said warmly, placing the package in his hands.

"Do I finally get to find out what you've been so jumpy about all week?" he asked with a sly grin. Buffy pouted.

"You are way too perceptive," she accused, whacking his arm playfully. "Open it."

Across the room, Willow looked up from Daniel, who was now strumming discordantly away on the toy guitar, just in time to see that Angel had started to open the present. Her hand shot out to seize Oz's forearm as she fought back her excitement. He wrapped an arm around her and smirked in comprehension as he followed her gaze. The others seemed to realize that something was going on too, for the room had grown quiet—except, of course, for the chatter and giggles of four older kids, who had noticed nothing—and all eyes were trained on Buffy and Angel.

The wrapping paper fell away, and Angel stared down at the pieces of paper and strip of plastic on his lap. It took a second or two for him to connect the dots, and his mouth fell open. He looked at Buffy, asking mutely for confirmation, because he had quite forgotten how to make his voice work. Eyes sparkling with emotion, she pulled one of his hands over to rest on her stomach. It took a few more seconds before the light bulb over Angel's head fully clicked on. His whole face lit up, splitting into the biggest, most beautiful smile Buffy had ever seen. His hand slid around from her stomach to her side and the present tumbled to the floor as he pulled her onto his lap and kissed her hard.

Dawn's and Renée's squeals of delight soon joined Willow's as they realized the significance of the contents of the package and Angel's reaction to them. Xander whistled, Giles smiled beneath the Santa beard, Connor grinned as he readjusted his now half-asleep son against his shoulder, and Oz nodded in satisfaction, but Buffy and Angel were oblivious to their audience.

Willow had been right. This was the best Christmas-slash-Hanukkah ever, and there were still over twelve hours left of it.


Hope you liked it! Merry (late now) Christmas! And now that I have a stable internet connection and a few minutes, I'll comment on some stuff from this chapter. The Doyle and Cordelia cats. Hee. I was glad for a chance to introduce them and have them wreak minor havoc. Since we didn't actually see the Cordy-cat in this, I'll describe her for you here. She's long-haired, and her coat is sleek and dark chocolaty brown with white splashes on her chest and paws, and her eyes are golden brown. We did cat genetics in class last semester, which was what originally inspired the cat thing. Angel being annoyingly perceptive was fun, as was Buffy's method of distracting him from asking her questions. And I love writing Kathy. Finally, Xander, Renée, Connor, and Dawn are actually in the picture instead of referenced, along with their kids. And then Angel's reaction. Happy sigh. I was grinning like a fool when I wrote that. Oh, and Santa Giles! Hehehe! All dignity is forgotten when it comes to entertaining the kids. And he totally would act like that, too. Gah. So much cute.