Snow flurries continued to fall outside the Chicago O'Hare airport. William watched, dazzled by beautiful sight. He could easily forget the situation and just enjoy the view, comfortable in the warm terminal. The snow had already accumulated on the tarmac and the planes outside had long since stopped moving. He could only see a short distance out due to the fury of the falling snow darkening the sky. It was gorgeous; Nature displaying its full glory and overpowering the rebellious humans, even in this technological era.
It was Christmas morning and this marked William's first "modern" Christmas. It was unfortunate that he was spending it stuck at the airport.
Xander and he had been skipping about the US, finding new Slayers and recruiting them to the nearest base. They'd planned to fly back to England on Christmas Eve so they could spend Christmas with their friends. Unfortunately, a blizzard had moved in on their connection from Chicago to Heathrow. All flights were grounded, and all the hotels in the area were full. They'd had to spend the night in the terminal. Now, Xander was back at the desk, trying to see when they might be able to get a flight.
It was not what he'd expected Christmas to be like in this time.
William glanced over as Xander returned and sat in the seat next to him, slouching down. The brunet rubbed at his eye, obviously tired.
Xander began talking without William even having to prompt him, "The weather service is at a loss on this one. They don't know why the storm isn't clearing up or when it'll stop. And the airline's refusing to give us a voucher because it's an 'act of God' and they're not responsible for it." Xander rolled his eyes. "Obviously, I haven't been good this year. Look what Santa's brought me!"
William smiled. "It is too bad. I was looking forward to seeing what Christmas was like in this time. It's hard to see it in the airport."
Xander shrugged. "Well, you saw all the decorations in Portland. But this is a bad way for you to spend your first Christmas in the 21st century." He stared out the airport window for a few moments. "Hey, we could do a round of 'Did You Have'. It would be the Christmas edition."
William rolled his luggage closer to himself as a gentleman took the seat next to him. "Did You Have" is a game that he and Xander had started playing to pass the time during flights. It basically consisted of Xander asking if something had existed back in William's time and William telling him if it did or not. William had found that it was a game that improved when you were drinking.
Taking William's silence as the go-ahead, Xander sat up straight and asked, "So, did you have Santa?"
William frowned. "Of course we had Santa."
"Okay, okay. Mistletoe?"
"Yes. In the kissing bells."
"You kiss a lot of girls?" Xander elbowed William.
William felt his face grow red, but he knew that Xander was only joking around. He'd become accustomed to his friend's humor after these past several months of traveling with him. "I was a mistletoe champion. I picked all the berries."
Xander held up a hand. "I'm gonna assume that doesn't mean what I think it means. Presents?"
William laughed, noticing Xander's frustration. "Well, yes."
Xander sank back into his seat, crossing his arms. "I'm sure there's something you didn't have."
William wasn't sure what to tell him. Given what he'd seen in Portland, Christmas didn't look very different from his time.
As Xander was thinking, William watched the older man sitting on his other side. The man had a large book on his lap, and he was quietly reading out loud. William couldn't even catch what the man was saying, but the book was definitely written in another language. In fact, it looked like some magic book like the type he'd seen at the Watcher's headquarters.
"Rudolph!" Xander said loudly, opening his hands wide. "I bet you didn't have Rudolph."
Distracted from his neighbor, William looked at Xander. "Who's Rudolph?"
"Aha!" Xander was triumphant. "He's only the most famous reindeer of all, my friend."
William didn't want to tell Xander that he thought "Rudolph" was a rather dumb name for a reindeer. Instead, he remained quiet and waited for an explanation.
"See, Rudolph had a red nose that glowed," Xander said. "And all the other reindeer made fun of him until one Christmas Eve when it was very foggy. Santa couldn't leave because he couldn't see, but Rudolph's red nose lit the way. So he saved Christmas." Xander nodded. "It's a truly great tale, that is."
"Why did his nose glow?" William asked.
Xander shrugged. "Why do the reindeer fly? Don't question it too much, William."
The man beside him was talking on a cellphone in a hushed voice. "I should be getting on the flight soon. I had to do something to delay them here first. Once I'm over there, I won't have to worry about these bloody soldiers anymore."
William's attention was drawn to the window. It had stopped snowing. Completely. In fact, the sun was out and the sky had cleared. Xander had apparently just noticed it, as well.
"That's weird," Xander said.
"Yes, very." William agreed.
The other man was putting away his cellphone when it slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor in front of William. The man darted forward to grab the phone before William could even reach down to help him.
"Whoa!" Xander stood up suddenly, backing up and staring at the man.
For his part, the other man took one glance at Xander and rolled his eyes. "Bloody hell!"
William looked from one to the other. "You two are acquainted?"
"Yeah," Xander said, eyes still on the other man, who was sitting up and putting his cellphone away.
"Ethan Rayne. Professional troublemaker and, last I knew, in the custody of the US military."
"Yes, well, we all know how hospitable they are." Mr. Rayne shrugged. "I managed to escape, but they've been following me ever since. I've finally got a chance to leave the country." He stood. "Had to work a spell or two to ensure that I'd get out without being noticed."
"The weather?" Xander said. He waved his arms as he often did when he was incredulous. "You made us miss Christmas? You limey bastard!"
Mr. Rayne stood, looking annoyed. "Well, you'll still have Boxing Day."
"So? I don't like boxing!"
William considered informing his friend about Boxing Day, but he decided now would not be a good time.
Mr. Rayne reached for his luggage. "You'll excuse me if I don't really care. The flight should be leaving shortly. You'll just have to live with it."
"Or," Xander replied. "I could call the base in England so that there's a troop of Slayers waiting for your arrival at Heathrow to send you back to the US military."
Mr. Rayne grew very still, obviously intimidated by the threat.
William didn't know the history behind this. Whatever Mr. Rayne had done must have been very bad to be wanted by the military. However, he watched as the snow rapidly, and magically, melted from the tarmac, ensuring that they would, in fact, be leaving for home soon. It was Christmas.
"Xander," he said, addressing his friend. "We had something in my time called the 'Christmas spirit'. I'm not sure if it's still present in this modern time, but I wonder if we might take up that tradition in this case."
Xander blinked, not answering.
William continued. "Why not just let him go? Surely, whatever he did can't be that bad."
Xander looked back at Mr. Rayne, who was watching with a hopeful look.
"Well," Xander said finally. "It has been several years."
"Damn right it has," Mr. Rayne said, backing away. "So, I'll just go wait on the other side of the gate, then, alright?"
Xander nodded. "Fine." He watched Mr. Rayne take a few steps away from them. "Hey, you're supposed to say 'thanks' when you get a Christmas present!"
Mr. Rayne didn't respond.
Xander sat down again next to William. They were silent for a moment as the loudspeaker announced that flights would be resuming soon, and that their flight, in particular, would be boarding in half an hour.
"'Christmas spirit'," Xander said. "You sound like a Hallmark card."
William grinned. "'Tis the season."