Alex gasped when he saw it. He couldn’t help it; he’d seen some wild things since he woke up in that magic shop, but this was disgusting. Unnatural. If there were any way he could turn back time and prevent it from happening, he would.
Dawn came up to see what had upset him. “What? What is—oh, god!” she exclaimed as she took in the awful sight.
“It can’t be that bad,” protested Joan, coming down the stairs into the basement. Randy, as usual, was at her heels.
Alex shook his head. “I think this is a lost cause,” he said bleakly. “There’s nothing that can be done now.”
Anya snorted in disgust as she surveyed the hopelessly knotted string of lights. “I suppose you think we should just go out and buy new Christmas tree lights?” she scoffed. “That’s so wasteful.”
“Well, ain’t nobody gonna untangle these, lady,” Alex returned, shaking the bundle at her. “Unless you’d like to take a stab at it?”
“You haven’t even tried,” she pointed out. “I mean, it’s not like they’re made of cardboard—they’re supposed to last, and if you’d only made the effort last time—”
“Me? What makes you think I was the one who left these like this? I don’t even live here! This looks more like something that a—a teenager would do,” he accused, turning towards Dawn.
Dawn began to offer a guilty protest, then stopped. What did she have to feel guilty about? She couldn’t even remember last Christmas!
“That’s right, blame it on a girl. Just like an American,” snorted Randy in disdain. “Can’t take responsibility for your own actions, can you?”
“Hey, it wasn’t too long ago that you were all upset when you found out you were English,” pointed out Alex crankily.
Randy shrugged. “I evolved,” he reasoned.
“Well, why don’t you evolve th—”
“That’s enough, all of you,” said Rupert, raising his voice. Sometimes—more than sometimes—he understood why he’d planned to leave. They were all like a bunch of squabbling children. Anya was a lovely woman—lovely—but rather challenging. And Randy was not the son he’d dreamed of—the son he imagined he’d dreamed of, at least. But who was he to complain? They were none of them perfect. And sometimes he felt overwhelmed by affection for them as they laughed and teased each other. As Randy went out to kill others of his kind, proving again and again he was nothing like them. As Joan assumed leadership of the little band, and showed strength beyond her years. It was a good thing; they needed a leader.
And sometimes, it seemed, they just needed a father. “We’ll have to get more lights, and the other decorations seem somewhat worn,” he said practically. “We’ll split up. Randy, Joan—you two get the tree. The rest of us will go downtown and get ornaments that are more … more….”
“In line with modern safety codes?” suggested Anya.
Rupert didn’t voice his agreement, but his silence implied it.
“Why do we have to get the tree?” protested Joan in dismay. It wasn’t fair! Why did the rest of them get to go to the mall and have fun and buy pretty things, while she and Randy got stuck hauling pre-processed lumber around? “Why don’t Randy and I get the lights and the rest of you haul the tree?”
“It’s perfectly obvious,” reasoned Anya. “There’s no reason the rest of us should strain our muscles and possibly injure ourselves when you two are lounging around like particularly lazy oxen.”
“‘Lazy oxen’?” repeated Joan.
“You know what I mean, Joan,” dismissed Anya. They’d long since discovered her name was actually Buffy, but she insisted she felt like a Joan. More likely, Anya thought, that she simply didn’t want to be Buffy. Anya couldn’t blame her, really. “The rest of us have limited reserves of strength, while you and Randy have vast stores of it that aren’t being tapped. You need to expend some, while we conserve ours for the demands of the fierce winter we’re enduring.”
“It’s sixty degrees out,” pointed out Randy sardonically. Personally, he didn’t give a hang whether he and Joan got the tree or the decorations. As long as they were together, he wasn’t complaining.
Of course, they were together nearly all the time. Since
they hadn’t been able to find out where he lived—unlike the others, there
seemed to be no records of him—Joan had invited him to live in the basement of
the house she shared with her sister and
Anya chose not to dignify Randy’s protest with a response. Sometimes she couldn’t believe her wonderful, distinguished Rupert was his father.
“Exactly what do you think we’re do when we’re out hunting?” pointed out Joan logically.
“Obviously you don’t spend enough energy, at least not in the right ways,” said Anya serenely. “If you did there wouldn’t be so much unresolved sexual tension between you.”
Joan, horrified, dropped the garland she was holding, while Randy hastily looked the other way and pretended he wasn’t in the room. Joan could feel her cheeks pinken, and glared daggers at Anya. Any sane, rational, normal person who wasn’t from Jupiter would find them fatal.
Unsurprisingly, they had no effect on Anya.
“Let’s go,” Joan sighed to Randy, grabbing her jacket. It wasn’t that bad, right? If she was going to be trudging along in the dark with somebody, she was glad it was him. Well, more than glad, really. She liked the others, but she had this weird connection with Randy—as if she was more alive when she was around him. And she was pretty sure it was reciprocal, but he hadn’t asked her out, or tried to kiss her, or anything. And given all the slutty clothes in her wardrobe, it wasn’t like she was being subtle.
Okay, it really kind of sounded like he didn’t like her at all, but he did; a girl could just tell. And she could definitely tell with him. He just needed a little nudge. That was fine—she was more than capable of nudging.
And if it turned out he didn’t like her, she could just say it was the amnesia. Or maybe the mistletoe.
“They’ve split up. Time to head out,”
“Can I carry it?” asked Andrew eagerly, nodding at the hefty
Warren and Jonathan groaned. “No, you may not,” said
“Why?” whined Andrew.
“Because why?” insisted Andrew, as Jonathan winced against the ever-higher pitch in Andrew’s voice that signaled an impending tantrum.
“Because remember what happened last time you held it? With the bird?” Jonathan reminded him.
Andrew’s shoulders slumped. “That was an accident.”
“Sure, sure,” soothed
“There was nothing wrong with it,” muttered Andrew.
“It couldn’t fly anymore,” pointed out Jonathan.
“Well, it’s not like we need to fly or anything,” joked Andrew weakly. The others ignored him as they got into the van and started across town to where they would ambush the Slayer.
Their Christmas gift this year would be free reign over
Jonathan and Andrew sat in the back, while the all-important
weapon took up the front passenger seat.
Jonathan and Andrew
were arguing, which wasn’t unusual. In fact, they argued almost continuously.
“That’s enough!” he interrupted. “Get over here and look at this.”
The others ran over to where he was bent over the monitor. “Is it porn?” asked Andrew hopefully.
“Anime?” piped up Jonathan.
“Anime porn?” suggested Andrew.
“It’s not porn or anime, it’s the magic shop. Something’s
going down—something weird,” said
“Why isn’t she killing them? And why are they calling her ‘Joan’?” asked Jonathan, puzzled.
“I don’t know how to do … whatever’s happened to them,” protested Andrew. “You know my talent is summoning demons and bending them to my will. Oh, and baking! So if anyone’s behind this, it’s Jonathan—he’s the witch!”
“I am not a witch! I’m a warlock, you p'tahk!” Jonathan spat.
Andrew gasped. “How dare you insult me in the language of my sworn enemies!” he screeched in outrage.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. “‘Sworn enemies’? Please, you’d pass out if you ever met a Klingon!”
“Why?” Andrew asked after a moment.
“Because if the Slayer doesn’t know who she is, that means she doesn’t know who we are. And it also means she doesn’t know she goes around all Supergirl, fighting crime and battling for justice, and that means she’s out of our hair.”
The other two just looked at him. After a moment Jonathan began, “You mean—”
“I mean we can do
whatever we want,”
“Stupid Anya,” muttered Joan, hefting her end of what had to be the biggest cut tree in the free world.
“I’ll agree with you there,” said Randy whole-heartedly. The thing wasn’t very heavy, and it had actually been his father who made them get the tree, but that wasn’t the point; his father had no place going out with someone so much younger. Disgusting, really. The bint was bossy as hell, too.
“Do vampires celebrate Christmas?” Joan asked him chattily. God, she always said the stupidest things to him! Idiot, she berated herself.
“Well, they—they—” Randy scowled. “Damned if I know,” he admitted. “I’d think—”
“My god!” exclaimed Joan, dropping her end of the tree and pointing.
“What? Where?” cried Randy, releasing his hold on the tree and swinging around, prepared to fight.
“Your hair—it isn’t all white anymore,” said Joan in surprise, pointing to Randy’s head, illuminated under a particularly bright streetlight.
Randy turned around, confuzzled for the moment before her words registered. “White? My hair is white? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” he complained, touching his head in surprise.
“Well, I don’t think—”
“My god, am I an albino?” he demanded, trying to tug strands of hair out so he could see for himself.
Joan began to laugh, much to Randy’s annoyance. “What the hell’s so funny? Can’t see myself, you know—mirrors and all.”
“You’re not an albino,” Joan giggled. “You’re hair’s bleached, and the roots are coming in. By the way, has anyone ever told you you’re a drama queen?”
“Well I wouldn’t know, would I?” Randy retorted crankily,
raking his hands through his hair and creating a disorderly mess of curls. Joan
smothered her laughter and picked up her end of the tree. After a moment he followed
suit, and they continued towards
She was a brat, thought Randy. She was bossy. She could be a snot. And he had the horrible feeling he was falling in love with her. He wanted to be around her all the time, touch her hair, listen to her silly prattle. Well, not silly, usually—unless she was discussing shoes or handbags or the like. But what a fighter! She could anticipate anything a monster was going to do, and defeat it with no trouble at all; he loved her strength, her confidence. And her hair smelled like strawberries.
“What?” said Joan.
“What what?” repeated Randy.
“You said, ‘strawberries’.”
Randy gritted his teeth. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of his thoughts around her. What with the strawberry smell, and her pouty little mouth, and her cute little ass. Stupid, stupid, just ignore it. Even if—even if—
Even if she was his.
She had marks on the side of her neck. They were faint, like they were old. And indistinct, like she’d been bitten more than once. But he’d seen for himself how well she fought, and knew that there was no way in hell she’d ever let anything take a bite out of her. Not unless she wanted it to.
They’d known each other before they woke up at the Magic Box. They were something to each other; at the very least, their families were friends. At Joan’s house was a picture of Giles playing cards with a slightly younger Dawn, and a mug in the cupboard—evidently crafted by Dawn—bore the message, “For my favorite vampire.” Which might have been a joke, but the bags of blood in the freezer made it look less like a joke and more like he’d been a frequent and honored guest.
Joan’d had a relationship with him, a vampire. She welcomed him in her house. And yet he was hesitant about making his feelings known, because even if he was a heroic vampire with a soul it wasn’t meant to—oh, who was he kidding? He was scared. That was all there was to it. He was scared she’d tell him to get bent.
“Hold on,” Joan told him, halting. They were home already. Joan rooted about in her pocket for a moment, then unlocked the door and pushed it open. He waited patiently for her to start moving again, but she didn’t. He jiggled the tree to prompt her, but nothing.
Finally she turned around and frowned at him. “Randy, do you ever think of, you know, things?”
He raised an eyebrow. “As opposed to?”
“I mean,” Joan began again, “do you ever think about us?”
Randy dropped his end of the tree in surprise. “I—well, I sometimes … that is….”
“Is that a yes?” she ascertained, releasing her grip on the tree as well. He smiled adorably. For a moment they just looked at each other, then she nodded above her. “That’s mistletoe,” she pointed out.
He glanced up. “Yeah, I think you’re right. That is mistletoe.”
“Are you gonna do something about it?”
His smile widened. “Maybe.”
The trio wasn’t using their binoculars, although they were hanging around their necks if needed. They really didn’t see them for what was going on, however; that was perfectly clear.
“My god, they’re kissing!” blurted out Jonathan, aghast. “Isn’t the Slayer supposed to, you know—not kiss vampires?”
“Who can blame her?” answered Andrew a little dreamily. The others turned to stare at him and he hurriedly added, “I mean—forbidden fruit and everything.”
“This is it, it’s the perfect time,” said
“And this won’t hurt them, right?” asked Jonathan anxiously.
“Of course not,”
In a few minutes, she wouldn’t even understand what the word meant.
“Bye-bye, Slayer,” he whispered, raising the obliviator and aiming at the couple across the street.
“Joan,” Randy groaned into her mouth, pulling back slightly to draw her lower lip into his mouth and worry it with his tongue. “God, why did we wait so long?”
“I don’t know,” Joan admitted, pressing kisses into his hair as he dragged his lips down her throat. “We’re stupid?”
Randy chuckled shakily. “Let’s go inside and stop being stupid.”
She shivered and agreed. “Yeah,” she agreed immediately. They bent down to grasp the tree, and neither of them noticed the wide swath of air over their bent torsos shimmer as the obliviation ray sliced by, ricocheted off the mirror in the entryway, and bounced back over them before they straightened and trudged inside with the tree.
They didn’t notice the three young men across the street get knocked to the ground by the return wave. They’d remain there until morning, when they were rousted by the garbagemen on their weekly round and hastened off, unsure of their names or where they were.
All Randy and Joan were aware of was each other as they dropped the tree inside the foyer and shoved the door shut. They fell against the wall, knocking into the front table as they clung to each other. “Joan,” Randy whispered, lips brushing her ear, “I don’t think this is the first time we’ve done this.”
Joan pushed up the front of his shirt and stroked her hand across his muscled chest. “I think you’re right.”
“Do you want to—” he began, unable to finish the sentence as she jerked the first button of his fly open.
“Upstairs,” gasped Joan.
Randy wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up. “Love you,” he muttered as he hungrily attacked her mouth again. He didn’t even realize what he’d said.
Joan noticed, though. The words went straight through her like a bolt of lightning. “Oh, god,” she moaned, cupping his cheeks and pressing sweet kisses against his lips.
His knees buckled, weakened by desire, and he sank down to the stairs with her, pressing her back against the steps.
Joan dragged his shirt open, uncaring that she’d torn the buttons right off. She only just came to her senses when he began to undo her jeans, and gasped, “Bedroom.”
It was an ominous sight that greeted the others as they returned from shopping, loaded down with far too many bags of decorations. The tree lay abandoned just inside the front door, and the table beside the door was resting on its side, the mail that had been laid there earlier in the day scattered across the floor. Halfway up the stairs was what appeared to be a rag. Dawn ran up to see what it was while the others dumped their packages.
“What the devil’s happened?” muttered Rupert, looking around at the unaccustomed disarray.
Dawn, a frightened look on her face, ran back to Rupert with the wad of black fabric. “It’s a shirt—it’s all torn up—” she gasped.
Rupert took it from her and felt his gut clench. “It’s Randy’s,” he whispered. “Alex? Get the weapons.”
“Did you hear something?” Joan whispered in Randy’s ear.
He shivered. “No, baby,” he returned, sitting back on his heels and pulling her up with him. All he could hear was her heart, pounding in her chest, fast and excited. Because of him.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, bending her head and nipping at his shoulder.
“Playing. Don’t you like to play?” he teased, trailing one hand down her body while keeping the other wrapped around her waist. As she opened her mouth to respond he slid his hand into her wetness, and she forgot what she was going to say.
“Randy,” she moaned, dropping her head down against his shoulder. He rubbed his fingers tantalizingly against her mound before sliding them inside her, searching for the sensitive spot deep inside.
“Do you like it, baby?” he whispered, kissing the side of her neck.
Without warning the door was thrown open and there stood their band of friends, Rupert at their head, all holding swords or axes.
Joan stared at them, astonished, over Randy’s shoulder. Randy turned his head to catch the invasion, but otherwise didn’t move. No reason for them to get an eyeful.
When reality sunk in Dawn shrieked and ran, and a distant slam announced she’d ensconced herself in her room. The others continued staring at each other until Anya finally announced, “I don’t believe they’re in any danger, so we can probably go downstairs and have some eggnog.”
“Uh … yeah. Eggnog is good,” agreed
Rupert remained in the doorway, a sword still in his hand, as he stared at the two of them as if uncomprehending.
“We’ll be down later, Dad,” Randy prompted, sounding more composed than he felt. “Could you shut the door on your way out?”
Rupert blinked and came out of his seeming daze. He shut the door and they were alone, naked, and well and truly discovered.
“…Do you suppose they’d believe it was the mistletoe?” suggested Joan. Randy just hugged her. “I’m too embarrassed to go down now,” she admitted against his shoulder.
Randy smiled against her hair. “We can stay up here for a while,” he told her. “In fact, I’m pretty sure we can stay up here all night.”
“But we’ll miss decorating the tree,” Joan protested. Randy moved his hand again, and Joan gasped.
“Like that?” he murmured, and she shivered. “Merry Christmas, Joan,” he whispered in her ear.
She sighed and tightened her arms around his neck. Not remembering the past was frustrating, but this new life … well, it wasn’t bad at all. “Merry Christmas, Randy.”