Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything belongs to Joss Whedon, etc.
…The Rest is Silence
Buffy looked around at her friends, happier than she had been in years. In the nine months since that awful night things had drastically improved in Sunnydale. Willow, Angel, Spike, and Cordelia had all moved back up from LA bringing Doyle, Angel's seer and Cordy's boyfriend, along with them. Angel Investigations was now located in Sunnydale and they all worked there.
She looked at Spike, who was throwing tinsel at Angel, and grinned. When everyone heard of the promise she had him make they were all ready to do everything it took to keep it from happening. Surprisingly her mother had been the most understanding of her decision. She knew what her daughter's life was like as the slayer and just wanted it over. In the end no one had been able to change her mind. For the past seven months she has lived in the night and would do so forever. She was a vampire.
When the Council learned that she had been turned and given her soul they had taken to rehabilitating Faith in the hopes that she could still be useful. It seemed to work and the dark slayer was now back in Sunnydale, repentant of the actions that got her incarcerated, and killing vamps right and left. She even had occasional help from the Fang Gang as she called them. The Council, at the urging of Giles, had even agreed to employ the Angel Investigations team as independent demon hunters. So far they had traveled to France and Germany to take out potential threats to the human race. She'd seen more of the world than she'd ever expected to, all in less than a year. What the Council didn't know was that Faith was planning on joining them as a member of the undead in a short time. She made Angel agree to turn her and have her soul restored. Cordelia and Anya were the only ones who'd made the decision to remain human, mostly because of Doyle and Giles.
Buffy looked at Willow and Cordelia hanging ornaments and couldn't believe that things had changed so much. The only thing missing was Xander. Nine months had passed without a word. She was hoping that he would be in enough of a Christmas spirit to call and at least let them know that he was okay.
Willow looked at Buffy and knew what was going through her friend's mind. She missed Xander just as much but she was determined to take Buffy's mind off of depressing thoughts. "I don't suppose anyone's in the mood for Christmas carols?" she asked hopefully.
Faith groaned. "Please, Red, not again!"
"I have to agree with Faith on that, Willow. I've had quite enough of Perry Como," Giles said from where he sat on the sofa next to Joyce and Anya. His relationship with Anya had progressed nicely and the two were now engaged.
"I happen to like Perry Como," Joyce laughed, glad to have all of her family under one roof. And she did think of them all as family.
"Well if you don't want to listen to carols we could have William recite some of his poetry for us," Angel said.
Spike's head shot up. "Bloody hell, do you have to tell everyone about that. It's bad enough that Red told Buffy and Anya."
"So William," Doyle said, "What kind of poetry d'ya write?"
"The name is Spike, Mick, and I'm sure as hell not going to tell you." Doyle just laughed at the vampire.
Cordelia looked around the room and got really serious for a moment. "I just want to say that it's nice having Christmas with you guys. I've come to think of you as my family." Angel gave her a hug and then she leaned back into Doyle's arms as he pressed a kiss to her temple.
A low grumbling sound broke up the sappy moment and everyone looked at Faith. "What? I'm hungry."
Everyone laughed and Joyce stood up. "I'll bring out some sandwiches and chips. Sodas and blood are in the refrigerator if anyone wants some." As she went back to the kitchen Buffy stood, ready to help with decorations but was stopped when the phone rang. "I'll get it," she yelled to her mom as she picked it up. "Hello."
"Is this Buffy Summers?" asked a gruff voice.
"Yes it is."
"My name is Detective Jason Hurley. I'm with the 67th precinct of the New York City Police Department. Do you know anyone by the name of Xander Harris?"
"Oh my God! Xander! Is he okay? He's not in jail is he?" Everyone in the next room stopped, Willow, Cordelia, and Faith all walking closer to Buffy.
"I'm sorry, miss. He's not in jail. I'm calling because your number was listed as an emergency contact on a card in his wallet. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Mr. Harris was shot earlier this evening in an apparent mugging."
Tears began running down her cheeks. "But he's okay right? He's going to be fine?"
"Miss, I'm afraid Mr. Harris passed away before EMT's arrived on the scene. I'm very sorry."
"No!" Buffy screamed. "You made a mistake. He's not dead!" Willow and Cordelia were both crying, having realized what was happening. Faith leaned against the wall, sliding down until she sat on the floor, burying her head against her knees. Giles held Anya while she cried and Spike, Angel and Doyle took Willow and Cordelia into their embrace. Joyce came running out of the kitchen wondering what was going on.
"I'm very sorry for your loss," the voice on the phone said just before Buffy heard a click, then nothing.
"Honey?" Joyce asked.
She dropped the phone, not bothering to hang it up, and turned to her mom, hugging her tight, tears pouring down her cheeks. "Xander's dead. He was shot by a mugger."
"Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry," Joyce murmured, not knowing quite what to say to her daughter. Nothing she said would bring him back.
No one moved a muscle. Everything was silent. It was as if they'd been frozen by the news. Nothing could be heard except the faint tick tock of the clock on the wall, counting the minutes as they passed. Nothing would ever be the same. One of their own was gone.