Growing up in southern California did not do a good job of instilling a girl with the Christmas spirit. First of all there were the trees - palm, not evergreen - and the general lack of an actual winter or seasons of any kind worth mentioning. There was the lack of (non-providential vampire-boyfriend saving) snow. None of which even included the influence of a local Hellmouth on the possible permutations of holiday ick.
Not this year. This year, Buffy Summers was living in England and not engaged in intensive therapy after witnessing a mass murder and being buried alive. There was snow, there was sleet, there was a general winterish vibe. There was going to be Christmas this year, if she had to enforce it by physical violence. Fortunately, she’d only had to actually resort to that when Satsu and D had tried to leave with the last box of brownie mix. Three falls out of five, and the brownies had totally been hers.
The Tesco people had been pretty cool about that, too.
There was a tree, a real, pine-y smelling fir tree that she’d actually gone and chopped down herself with an axe designed for chopping actual trees, adorned with about 50% too many strands of twinkly lights and the kind of delicate glass ornaments that she’d never dared to buy lest they become floor-shrapnel after the inevitable throwdown in her living room. Electric candles sat flickering artfully in pretty much every window, garlands hung from ceiling beams and the hearth, every outer door had a great big wreath with a cartoon-sized red velvet bow on top, and there were glittery pine cones and fake fruit lying tastefully around the house. Some of them she didn’t remember making or placing, but she figured it must have happened during the initial egg-nog fueled decorating binge.
Willow had convinced her it was better not to nog and decorate after the never-again-to-be-mentioned incident with the three bags of tinsel, the inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the elf costume. She still wasn’t sure where the costume had ended up, and with the way the younger Slayers had been giggling afterward she’d been too afraid of the answer to ask.
That, and the knowing smile on Faith’s face.
Anyway, that was all in the past. Buffy was on a one-nog-a-night limit now, and it had been at least three days since the last wrapping paper incident. There were guests and food and presents and more food and an oversized blow-up Santa in her house, there was an actual fire in an actual fireplace in a room that actually needed it, there was a super cute red velvet dress that had only taken four days of shopping in London to find, and she’d even convinced Willow (well, convinced Kennedy to convince Willow by means that were not to be thought about in any detail) that it was okay to celebrate Christmas even with the whole Wicca-Jew-lesbian thing. Also, Faith had a new leather jacket and jeans that could not possibly have come that fitted without the help of a tailor. Life was good.
Still, there had been a minor skirmish over viewing entertainment. Willow had been determined to catch up on her Charlie Brown Christmas Special viewing - there was apparently a childhood thing there - and Buffy had bad associations. Giles had wanted to watch some boring old Masterpiece Theatre thing, and then Faith had gotten into the act by suggestion a Christmas-themed action movie marathon. It had carried on in something resembling good nature through dinner, but it was getting more serious than Buffy liked in her house with a basement full of weapons and breakable, breakable ornaments, so she’d made Xander pick on the logic that no one would attack his squishy human self. Probably.
Star Wars was apparently an acceptable compromise for everyone concerned, and Buffy’s video-on-demand service was totally stocked. Turkey and dressing had been exchanged for chips and popcorn, refills had been poured and back-up supplies laid in, and everyone had battened down to enjoy lightsaber-y goodness until the small hours of the morning.
They managed to stay awake long enough for everyone to chime in on the moon/space station mixup, and then doom (sleepy, sleepy doom) descended on them. Maybe the Ultra-Recliner home entertainment center set-up was a little too comfy. Buffy’s last semi-coherent memory had involved Chewbacca, a stormtrooper and the weird tentacle-eye-thing.
“B.” Warm, strong hands lifted her out of internally-heated leathery padding, and she had the vague and dizzy sense of moving through the air in a way not involving her legs. “Come on, B, it’s midnight. Time to open a present.”
“Gwah?” By the time she had figured out which way was up and where all her limbs were, they were halfway up the stairs, which were easily identifiable by the upward movement and runway strips of twinkly lights. Buffy frowned sleepily at the upside-down lights, then rolled her head around until it was up against Faith’s shoulder instead of dangling over her arm. “You could have waited for me to locomote, you know.”
“It’s a girlfriend thing,” Faith murmured, her face softened by the delicate pinpoint light of the LED twinkly lights and the fire-free candles. “It’s more fun if I carry you.”
“Does that mean it’s my turn next year?” Buffy murmured into the curve of Faith’s neck. “Or is good for any holiday? I could make this President’s Day really romantic.”
“Please.” Faith snorted softly, easing through the door to the bedroom - cunningly left open, Buffy noticed - and shifting her lover in her arms enough to smirk down at her. “Don’t give me that femlib crap. Everyone knows I’m totally the butch one in this relationship.”
“Duh,” Buffy smirked. “But you still look good in dark lipstick.”
Faith’s eyes twinkled in the near-dark as she lay Buffy down on the big walnut-framed bed. “Flattery is so not going to get you into carrying me. That’s hot and dirty sex territory, minimum.”
Arching back into a belly-exposing stretch, hair catching the candlelight as it spilled over her shoulders, Buffy grinned up at her lover. “Don’t we do that anyway?”
“Point. I need to get a better bribe system going, clearly.” Faith bent down and kissed her, lips tracing the softness of Buffy’s mouth, then drew back with a grin that only got bigger when Buffy bit her lip in protest. “So, about that present....”
“Is better than sex?” Buffy said in a charmingly blase fashion. She was not at all pouting.
Faith just laughed. Damn. She’d have to get more practice with not-pouting. “Come on, B,” Faith teased gently, “it’s our first real Christmas, and you totally still owe me for standing me up with your mom on Christmas when I got all dressed up for it.”
Buffy’s pout shifted into a more bittersweet expression. “You just have to bring out the big guns, don’t you? That was years ago.”
“What can I say?” Faith shrugged philosophically. “I’m just that good.”
“Present,” Buffy grumbled. “Before I start practicing my aim with pillows on your head. Again.”
“Fine, fine. Spoilsport. I just have to get it.” Faith threw her a wink, ducking into the bathroom and making a show of closing the door. There was a sound of cabinets being opened and objects being shifted, and Buffy rolled back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. Faith is fishing in my bathroom for hidden presents, she observed to the giant six-pointed star of twinkly lights on the ceiling. This is not how I expected my life to look four years ago.
“Don’t start anything without me!” Faith called through the door, and Buffy grinned. Surprises, she informed the ceiling, are awesome.
“You get two more minutes, then I make no promises,” she called through the door.
“Totally worth it,” Faith wheedled from somewhere near the big walk-in shower. “Promise!”
It took her more like five minutes, but Buffy was waiting on the bed like a good girl when the door opened again. Which was good, because missing what walked through the door would have been a crime on par with leaving a good shoe-sale unshopped or recording drunken girls’ night conversation for tormenting Xander with later (not that she had ever been or would ever be involved in anything like that).
Buffy’s brain temporarily stopped working for a while, then decided that step-by-step analysis was the only way to regain function. It started from the bottom, which was a good choice - if she started from the top, she’d get stuck around Faith’s eyes and never get any thinking done. So bottom. Heels, black, very high. Way higher than Faith usually wore, which meant they were absolutely all about the fact that Buffy had a thing about impractically sexy shoes, and she’d gone the whole distance by adding stockings, which Faith hated because they tore and Buffy loved because they were totally impractically sexy. On the topic of which, once she got past admiring the strong line of Faith’s legs, there were garters, and a garter belt, and panties that were all black lace and required a bonus minute of mental shutdown before any further thinking could proceed.
Gloves, her brain piped up after the requisite staring. Satin past the elbows, and they looked so good on Faith’s hands that they should have been criminal. Or not-criminal. Or something. She was still busy with the staring and not so much with the metaphor, especially since Faith had topped the outfit with a black lace and red embroidery corset that even had dainty little red bows in all the right places. Which was all kinds of unfair that would require serious, serious grovelling to pay off later. Exactly who would be doing the grovelling, she was less clear on, but she figured she could work that out when the time came.
“Um,” Buffy said eloquently, staring at the hollow of Faith’s throat and the strong collarbone that was going to feel so good under her mouth later and then getting hung up again on the black cherry lipstick and eyeshadow and eyes.
Faith had an amazing body, as demonstrated via the not-thinking. She routinely stopped traffic when she felt like it, and sometimes when she didn’t, and sometimes trains. Cartoon wolves with floor-length tongues kind of sexy. This had been established, commented on, generally posted in public places the world over. Faith’s eyes, though - Faith’s eyes were still her secret and nobody else’s.
When she’d been a freshman, pre-Sunnydale, someone had been reading some old book of poetry and gotten hung up on the hero being captured in the eyes of the super-creepy fairy woman. She’d made a snarky and figured it was some vampire hypnosis whammy, because freshman-Buffy didn’t believe anybody could actually get captured in someone’s eyes.
Then she met Faith, fought with Faith, danced with Faith, and she didn’t even remember the moment when she stared into those dark brown eyes and realized some of her had gotten lost in there and she couldn’t get it back. Some part of Buffy, something so central and so simple that sometimes she couldn’t breathe without it, just didn’t exist unless Faith was watching her or she was looking into those eyes.
For a long time, she’d hated that - felt like part of her had been stolen, like she hadn’t offered part of herself for Faith to just walk off with like that. She didn’t hate it anymore. Couldn’t.
When Buffy found that part of her in Faith’s eyes now, being captured by Faith seemed like the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Talking, her brain informed her naggingly.
I so don’t need to talk.
No, Faith. Is talking. Now. Her brain had a way of talking to her while she was dizzy and super-turned on, like she was the slow student who maybe wasn’t going to pass her driving practical.
“Sorry,” she interrupted, wondering if she was actually drooling. “Brain all gone.”
Faith laughed, which was the best thing since the creation of smoothies or maybe the world, and took three long swaying steps closer so she could lean down and shape the words very deliberately with those unjustly sexy lips. “Present,” she articulated carefully. “Want to unwrap me?”
Buffy was distantly aware of some kind of noise passing her lips, possibly with defined syllables, and then caught up enough to whimper for a pause before Faith’s mouth came down on hers and totally drowned out anything resembling coherent thought.
Faith paused, both of them breathing the same air, sharing the same heat and the same pulse.
“I love you,” Buffy whispered, because the words wouldn’t stay unsaid even a second longer.
“Merry Christmas, B,” Faith murmured, her voice hitching with a joy that made Buffy’s reflection dance and shine in her eyes.
Buffy Summers groaned, sank back on the bed, and got the Christmas spirit as it had never been got before.