This was written to cheer someone up, therefore it's rife with corn and cheese and cotton candy and all those things I love so much. Hope everyone is having an enjoyable start to the holiday season :)
I'll Be Home For Christmas
Willow surveyed the array of items she'd arranged on the small table by the couch.
"Chips…chocolate…ice-cream…" she rattled off as she mentally ticked off each filled bowl before suddenly noticing a disparity, "Soda!"
She padded off to the kitchen and grabbed as many cans of Dr. Pepper as she could carry and went back to the couch, leaving her soda within easy reach. She stretched out and grabbed the remote to begin her evening of moping with sappy Christmas movies; starting with her favourite, The Muppet Christmas Carol.
She clicked play and grabbed the tub of ice-cream, ready to dig in. She only got a few good spoonfuls in, however, before the sound of the key turning in the door.
Her heart jumped right up into her throat, but it quickly sank again when she saw Buffy come through. It wasn't who she wanted it to be. It couldn't.
"Your key is for emergencies," she said flatly, not looking away from the television screen.
Buffy took in the slovenly scene for a moment before fixing her hands on her hips and shaking her head.
"Those pyjamas are an emergency. A fashion emergency."
Willow just brought her knees up to her chest and cradled the ice-cream like it was a small child.
Buffy marched over and grabbed the tub, then the remote.
"No grown woman should wear a onesie. Ever. Ever."
Willow grabbed the remote back and turned the volume right up.
"I'm kinda busy here."
"It's Christmas Eve," Buffy tried to reason but wasn't even granted the courtesy of eye contact.
"I'm Jewish," Willow answered, her tone not able to hide the detectable note of bitterness.
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"And you've been celebrating Christmas for years, so go throw a nice dress on and come to the party!"
"No," Willow replied, grabbing a handful of M&Ms and shoving them into her mouth petulantly.
Buffy tried to stand in front of Willow to block her view.
"NO!" Willow all but shouted, only for Buffy to go over to the television and yank the plug out, "HEY!"
Buffy swung the plug around in her hand.
"It's what she would want."
Willow's eyes flashed and she looked up to Buffy, jaw set.
"Don't speak for her."
Buffy sighed and crossed her arms gently over her chest.
"Willow…I know you're still upset."
"Damn right I'm upset!" Willow interrupted, "Now put my movie back on!"
"No," Buffy replied firmly, "There are other people relying on you. My mom has been a rock for all of us over the years and all she wants is all her friends and family together to celebrate her five years in remission!"
Willow felt the sting of the words but couldn't deny they were deserved. She could mope all she wanted, but it was an important day for Joyce. If anything was deserving of a brave face, it was this.
Buffy noted the glum look on Willow's face and tentatively stood next to her and offered her shoulder a squeeze.
"She made those cheesy pastry things you like," she said, smiling, "If Xander hasn't eaten them all."
"They are pretty good," she replied, reasonably for the first time, "Do I have time to wash my hair?"
Buffy glanced at her watch.
"If you let me do your make-up while you dry it."
Willow seemed to be weighing up the options in her mind before finally jumping up.
"Okay, okay. For Joyce."
Buffy puffed out a breath of relief, then slapped Willow's butt in the direction of the bathroom.
"Go, go, go. I'll try and find something flattering in that closet of horrors."
Willow scowled but didn't have time to retort as she was hurried off to shower. She removed herself from her onesie and hid it under some sweaters in the laundry hamper, not putting it past Buffy to try and trash it.
Buffy, however, was too busy trying to find something she deemed appropriate in the closet.
"How is your brain wired that you think these colours match?" she muttered to herself as she looked through, before snatching a plain white dress out of the back, "This is…relatively normal."
Willow came out wrapped in a towel then, but came to a halt when she saw the dress.
Buffy considered the length and neckline.
"It looks like it would fit."
Willow pushed past the dress to get her underwear on behind the towel.
"That's…that's not the point."
"Willow, it's pretty and it's white and it doesn't have Hello Kitty embossed on it," Buffy replied in a pleading tone, "Please try it."
Willow turned back and looked at it longingly for a moment, then cautiously reached out for it. Her hand slid through the fabric like it had while it had been on another body. She couldn't resist bringing a bit up to her face and took in the familiar, comforting smell.
"'Kay. I'll wear it."
Buffy clapped her hands in relief and waited for Willow to get into it so she could help her adjust it, then busied her over to sit so she could do her make-up.
Willow tried not to fidget as her face and eyes were wiped with all kinds of everything and worked on getting her hair as presentable as possible.
Buffy finished some gentle blending on Willow's neck, then took her hand and pulled her up to stand. She smiled and whistled approvingly.
Willow couldn't muster up quite the same sentiment.
"Let's just go."
Buffy was glad Willow was coming at all and walked with her out of the apartment. The occupants of the apartment directly opposite were also leaving.
"Good timing," Xander smiled between the two girls and his wife.
"I told you we had time for shower sex," Anya replied with a pointed look that just served to make Xander's cheeks redden.
"How you doin', Willster?" he asked in an effort to change the subject, putting his arm around Willow's shoulders.
"How do you think?" Willow replied as they all walked out into the cool air and made the few blocks around to the Summers' house.
"You know you can–"
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Willow replied, pre-empting the invitation to spend the holidays, "I just want to be alone."
Xander nodded understandingly and moved his arm around Anya, who seemed more receptive to his touch.
The Summers' house was already filled with friends of Joyce's and had a general buzz of festivities about it. Xander said hello to the host and made a beeline straight to the food, while Anya admired some of the nicer jewelled ornaments on the tree. Buffy was pulled away to get her cheeks pulled by old family friends.
"Mrs. Summers," Willow said as she approached, actually offering the first real smile of the evening, "Um, is congratulations the right word?"
Joyce smiled serenely.
"There's four words that mean so much to me in light of everything," she replied, then leaned over as if she was revealing a massive secret, "Nice to see you."
Willow considered the words and realised how much weight they really held.
"Nice to see you, too," she replied, her smile becoming slightly more forced as she struggled not to let it falter.
"I know it's a tough time for you," Joyce replied gently, but Willow held up a hand to wave it off.
"Hey, it's nothing like…" she started, but found herself getting choked up so just took Joyce's hand and gave it a squeeze instead, "It's nice to see you, Joyce."
Joyce offered an affectionate smile and went off to converse with some more people that had just arrived.
Willow stood there a little dumbly for a minute or two, then went off to join Xander at the food table, snatching a few cheese puffs away before he scoffed them all. She decided she couldn't quite be as greedy as she'd planned to be with her own junk food since there was a whole party to feed, so filled just one plate, then found a free seat and dug in.
She held a few short conversations with people as they passed her, but everyone seemed to pick up on her mood quick and left her to her sulking. She contemplated getting drunk but decided that was only going to make her more morose, so stuck to the punch.
If nothing else, it gave her an excuse to appear more involved in the party than she was by getting up regularly to refill her cup.
It was during what had to be her seventh or eighth refilling in less than an hour, that she saw a couple of people turn their gaze to her, then Buffy called over, smiling from ear-to-ear.
"Hey Willow. You're standing under the mistletoe."
Willow's brow creased in confusion. Why would Buffy point that out? In front of all these people? She'd just put her in a super-awkward situation because there was only one person she wanted to be kissing and she was –
– standing right there.
Tara, the junior book publisher, who had been called away to hold the reigns of a book tour (her first) the two weeks before Christmas. Tara, the person Willow had been longing to hold each cold evening for the past fourteen horrible days. Tara, who had called that afternoon to tell her a blizzard had grounded all the flights and it looked to be at least another two or even three days before she'd get another one. Tara, who was standing right there in front of her, looking exhausted but exuberantly happy.
Willow had enough grace to drop her plastic cup into the bowl of punch instead of the floor before she jumped into Tara's arm and kissed her hard enough to make the mistletoe blush.
The rest of the party turned back to their own conversations, most uncomfortable to witness such a private moment.
Neither Willow nor Tara had eyes for anyone but each other.
"Your plane was cancelled!" Willow started to ramble, letting her feet hit the floor again but her hands on Tara's waist and holding her as close as possible, "A-and there was no train service! The blizzard! T-the rental cars weren't– Y-you s-said you'd tried everything!"
"Did you steal my stutter as well as my dress?" Tara asked with a soft smile, then gave her a twirl, "It looks great on you."
Willow flushed but nothing would wipe the smile from her face.
Tara crossed her arms over Willow's neck.
"You know how I say everyone and their mother is an aspiring author," she said and got a nod, "Well I got into a conversation with the guy who got the last rental. He was going to Santa Barbara. I told him about the book tour and he recognised the title…Offered to give me a ride in exchange for reading his novel. It's actually not half bad. Oh and I told him I'd get him an autographed copy from the author."
Willow closed her eyes and blinked away from tears of joy.
"Tara," she said, her voice shaking with emotion as she leaned their foreheads together.
"I thought someone had broken in when I got home," Tara teased, pressing their lips together sweetly, "My dress gone and our sofa covered in chips and melted ice-cream."
Willow blushed and nuzzled their noses together.
"I was moping," she replied, pulling their hips together so their bodies were flush while still standing tall, "Why didn't you call?"
"Dead battery," Tara replied, feeling as if her whole body was being renewed from the hellish trip home just by looking into Willow's deep green eyes, "I'm sorry."
Willow kept their heads together, not kissing, just breathing in the same air.
"Don't be. You're here."
She kept her hands on Tara's waist and began to sway with her; the world brighter and the music sweeter than it had been just minutes before.
I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas…