Post Chosen, the slayers try to celebrate Christmas. And we all know Faith doesn't do holidays well ... My second fanfic, written after my big first project, "Where Do We Go From Here" ...
A SEASON FOR FAITH
Chao-Ahn stared down at the wrapped package in her lap, her face a mask of confusion.
“It’s a Christmas present,” Giles explained helpfully.
Throughout the common room, the slayers took up similar boxes with varying degrees of excitement. “I was hoping for an iPod,” Kara whispered to Rona. “I crushed my old one by accident. But, is this normal? I thought we were meeting for some new threat, or something.”
Behind her, Faith bent over to whisper in Kara’s ear, “Don’t get your hopes up. Giles probably doesn’t even know what an iPod is.” She couldn’t blame the kid for thinking this would be some kind of normal holiday. This was Kara’s first Christmas as a slayer -- the first Christmas for all the slayers, except Buffy and Faith. They hadn’t yet had time to learn holidays never worked out.
The slayers were sitting in a semicircle, some on furniture, some on the floor, a few on the windowsills. All except Faith, who slouched against a wall by the door, waiting for an excuse to leave. As soon as Giles led in the three watchers-in-training, each laden with gaily wrapped boxes, she’d known exactly what was going on.
Vibrator size boxes, Faith suddenly realized, and had to suppress the urge to giggle.
“You’ve all worked hard and met many challenges since becoming slayers,” Giles was saying from his spot near the center of the room. He had a serious look on his face, offset by the red and white santa hat perched at a rakish angle on his head.
“Here comes the speech,” Faith muttered. “He must be the one who trained Buffy to be long winded.” Kara glanced back, her lips downturned. The kid was a good slayer, but like most of them had not yet learned to stop taking the job so seriously.
“Buffy and Dawn are touring Europe, Willow and Kennedy are in Brazil, Andrew and Xander are on slayer recruiting missions, but all of you have been stuck here in Chicago since our last battle. I thought you deserved a treat, to make up for that.”
Robin started passing out trays of candy, which excited some of the slayers more than the presents did. The only other non-slayers in the room were Kara’s father, Richard, and her friend Jason, both new watchers who stood together near a window. Faith noted it was raining outside, then she focused back on Jason and Richard. They were arguing quietly about something.
Everyone had been so bad-moody since the weather turned sour -- especially those who were used to California weather.
Merry freakin’ Christmas, Faith thought sourly. Granted, they’d never had snow for Christmas in Sunnydale -- well, except for that one time -- but at least they hadn’t been stuck in a backup Watcher’s facility in downtown Chicago. Considering her history with the Watcher’s Council, she woke up most mornings feeling like she was still in enemy territory. it didn’t help that the place was overcrowded.
“So,” Giles droned on, “I’d like to wish you all a very Merry --”
“Just a minute, Mr. Giles.” Vi stepped forward, a larger box in her hand. “Before we open ours, here’s one for you. We didn’t have much money, but there are some talents besides maiming and destroying in the group, so ...” She handed him the box.
“Well, I ... I ...” He looked in real danger of shedding a tear.
“Cripes, open it up, Rupert,” Faith called. “You don’t even know if it’s worth the emotion yet.” This time she got sour expressions from half the people in the room, but as long as it stopped the waterworks she didn’t care. Until a few minutes ago she’d forgotten it even was Christmas time -- what difference did it make?
“Um, yes, of course.” Giles tore open the package, and carefully lifted out the most hideous multicolored fuzzy sweater Faith had ever seen in her life. He held it up to his chest, revealing a pattern in the general shape of a deer and one arm longer than the other. Faith grinned, waiting for him to start bitching.
Instead, Giles examined it for a long moment, then looked up at his audience. “You mean ... you all made this yourselves, from scratch?”
“Yep,” Rona said, the pride evident in her voice. “Everybody had a job -- getting the materials, measuring, sewing on buttons --”
“I knitted one arm,” Vi said.
“I did the other,” Kara told him. “I’d never even knitted before.”
Well, Faith thought, that explained a lot.
Then, to her astonishment, Giles put it on. He said absolutely nothing about the fact that one hand remained in sight and the other covered, and didn’t mention that it hung down long enough to be a nightshirt. He just did a little turn, and bowed when the slayers applauded and whistled. “Thank you. This is ... this is marvelous.” And he actually seemed to mean it.
What a bunch of kooks. Faith glanced toward the door, wondering if anyone would notice her sneaking out. Holidays were only good as an excuse to party, and who needed an excuse? But she spotted Robin giving her a hard stare, and hesitated. They’d argued over something silly that morning, so maybe -- not that she cared about his feelings, but he was a fun roll in the hay --
“Everyone, open your gifts at the same time. Hand made, especially for each of you.”
Faith glanced down at the box in her hands, as the others started tearing into theirs. Wouldn’t it be funny if they did turn out to be vibrators? That would tend to cut down on the stress levels, she supposed. Especially between Kara and Jason, who’d been going out of their way to pretend they weren’t attracted to each other, for some reason. But Giles was way too proper to even consider such a thing.
A silence descended on the slayers, as they opened their boxes and removed objects that were, sure enough, long and cylindrical, with a tapered end. They were even the right dark color, as far as Faith was concerned, but she could tell by the reaction that she was the only one having dirty thoughts.
“It’s cherry.” Giles was starting to look anxious, because the room’s noise level had descended so rapidly they could hear Richard cough nervously. “Very hard wood. There’s a small machine shop in one corner of the quarters, you see, so the four of us -- Robin, Richard, Jason and I -- turned these out while you were otherwise occupied.”
Faith shot Robin a look, suddenly remembering what they had argued about. He gave her a somewhat embarrassed glance in return. What, he couldn’t have just told her his mysterious disappearances were for a good and innocent reason? Oh, wait -- he did tell her that.
“Sanded smooth and varnished,” Giles was saying. “You’ll never get a splinter from these. And your names are inscribed along the bottom.”
“I did that,” Jason put in. Faith saw Kara hold hers up, and spotted a small heart engraved by the name. She doubted anyone else had one, and she doubted it was to remind Kara where to aim.
“Yes, um, we all worked on it, just as you all worked on this sweater ...” Giles trailed off again, his gaze darting around the room. Faith told herself she should be getting a big kick out of his embarrassment, but as much as she fought it, she could only feel sorry for him.
Finally, Chao-Ahn held hers up, and sent a significant gaze around at the others. “It is a beautiful stake, Mr. Giles.”
A few slayers nodded, then more. Then they all began calling thank-you’s, and telling the senior watcher how much they liked their gifts. It went on like that for a few more minutes, until someone yelled, “Secret Santa!”, and more gifts started appearing from under furniture and behind backs. Soon the room was full of milling girls, seeking out those whose names they had drawn.
Lame. This was her chance to get away in the confusion, though. Faith waited a few more minutes, watching the revelation of various clothing and electronic items. Then voices began rising in the corner, where Richard and Jason seemed to be confronting each other over something while Kara looked on in confusion. Much more like the holidays she remembered. Taking that attention grabber as her cue, Faith turned and slipped out the door, stepping quietly into the cold, antiseptic hallway.
But she hadn’t made it three steps before she slowed to a halt. Where was she supposed to go? The tiny cubical she shared with Robin was barely big enough for the aforementioned roll in the hay, and Robin was the type who would rather piss her off than look antisocial by leaving the gathering early -- even for sex. Another snack? A workout? Again? She could disobey Giles’ instructions again and hit the town, but it was cold and raining ...
Turning, Faith took one step back. No. No way. She turned once more, intent on finding something to wreck in the gym.
The door opened, momentarily letting out the shouting and laughter. Faith whirled, expecting Robin, but instead found Kara standing before her. “Hey, K. You have to escape from that row your dad and boyfriend were having?” She was curious about what started it, but not curious enough to make it known she was curious.
Kara rolled her eyes. “It turns out they were playing dueling presents without even knowing it.” She held out two boxes, both the same size. One was dressed up with candy canes and Santa Claus heads, the other with multicolored flowers. “They got me the same thing, and started arguing over which I should take.”
“Ah.” Faith grinned, but her smile faded the more she considered the story. “You know, Kara, there are worse things in the world than having two handsome men fighting over you.”
“Yeah. By the way, I noticed you didn’t stay for the gift exchange.”
“I didn’t put my name in the box. We don’t have much room around here for nick nacs, so what’s the point?”
“To show we care for each other.” Kara stared at her, giving Faith the impression she was being analyzed.
“Care --?” Faith drew in a breath. “Well, now that I’m back, I’m kind of your drill sergeant, you know?
“Giles wasn’t sure you’d come back.”
“Hey, that fight up in Michigan was intense. I just needed a little time off, that’s all. The point is, you don’t have to like me -- just listen and learn.”
Now Kara smiled. “Is it okay if we like you anyway?”
Faith stared at her, unsure what to say.
“We noticed you didn’t put your name in, so we all got together for you, too. There’s a present in the common room, but everyone was afraid to give it to you while you had that big frown on your face. And, there’s this.” Kara held out one of her boxes -- the one with the canes and Claus, Faith noticed.
“You’re giving me your leftovers?”
Kara’s eyes narrowed, but she kept her hand out. “I could have kept both of them. But I know how much you like your music. And I know -- even though you’d never admit it -- that you’ve been keeping the volume lower than you like to avoid annoying Giles and my father. And ... Robin? So now you’ve got something with earplugs.”
Faith felt lousy, and it took her a second to realize it was because she’d offended Kara. Didn’t she used to not care about that kind of thing? But she held her hand out, and looked into the box Kara gave her. It was a brand new MP3 player, a nice one. “Wow. I know your dad has money, but Jason must have sold a kidney to afford an iPod.”
“That’s why I kept the one from him.”
“Is that the only reason?”
Yeah, Faith knew the feeling. Another one of those new feelings, the kinds she’d thought were beneath her. Or, maybe, above her. “Thanks, K.”
“Will you come back in to take your other present?”
“Does it look like Giles’ sweater from hell?”
Faith nodded. “Give me a little time to wander around, so I can pretend I actually left for some reason. And ... thanks again.”
“My lips are sealed.” Kara turned to go back through the door, but as soon as she went in Robin sauntered out, looking smug.
“And what did you get for Christmas?” Faith asked, crossing her arms.
“A sexy slayer.”
“Sexier than me?”
“Baby, nobody’s sexier than you.” He took her in his arms, and Faith felt all those things she always did with him: warm, turned on, comforted. And -- happy. “Faith, I know you’re not a big fan of holidays, but I’ve got a present for you in our room.”
She hugged him, and said, “I’ve got my present right here,” which brought a surprised expression to Robin’s face. Okay, so she didn’t say stuff like that often enough -- so, sue her. Then she jabbed a finger at his chest. “I had better not be lingerie, buster. Or an iPod.”
“None of the above. Let’s go see.” Robin took her by the hand and started leading her down the hallway, but after a moment Faith paused.
“Only for a few minutes. Then we need to go back to the party.”
Robin looked surprised again. “Oh?”
“Yeah. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the gang.”
“Oh. Okay.” They walked on.
“And I want to make fun of Giles for that sweater. And for giving stakes for Christmas. Geez, he should give those girls a day off from slayage.”
“You know, we should put carpeting in this hallway. This place needs to be brightened up, if we’re going to make it a home.”
The comment was so unlike Faith, Robin didn’t even try to respond.