AUTHOR: Lady Raven
DISCLAIMER: the Buffyverse and all it's characters belong to Joss Whedon. The 'Elseworlds' concept belongs to whoever thought it up (a fanfic writer for the X-Men, I think).
RATING/CONTENT: NC-17, Consensual m/f sex [Buffy/Angel]
SUMMARY: A sequel to Elseworlds: Fallen Angel. Buffy Summers, private eye at large, and Angel Roarke, mysterious millionaire type, are spending their first Christmas together.
SPOILERS: Elseworlds: Fallen Angel. The NC-17 version should soon be available at The Loft, or The Naughty Slayer.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you haven't read E: FA, this might not make a lot of sense. Basically, the year is 1948, and the whole Slayer/Vampires thing is the stuff of fiction. Both Buffy and Angel are in their early twenties, they met when Angel hired Buffy to find a stolen family heirloom (read E: FA). Giles is the Roarke family butler, who also helped Angel raise his younger brother William and their distant cousin Drusilla after his father died. Drusilla is sane, too, although pretty loopy and psychic (so she says). Sunnydale is the Roarke family estate, half an hour from LA.
If there's a reference in here that you don't understand, then I probably haven't written it yet. Just acknowledge it and read on!
December 20, 1948
Angel Roarke stirred and opened his eyes as Buffy shifted, pressing her back more closely against his chest. He lifted himself up on one elbow so he could watch her face and smiled at the picture she made in the stream of moonlight coming through the window. The silver light made her look like a statue made of fine ivory, with emeralds for eyes, and gold leaf for hair.
The need to touch her growing stronger, Angel gently traced his fingers down her body, from shoulder to hip and back. As his fingertips ran over the skin on her left side, he felt the interruption to her smooth skin. Caught in the half-trance that often came over him when he and Buffy made love, he traced the scar several times. She'd received it when a bullet had grazed her in an attempt to kill him.
Those emerald eyes that could make him burn or melt with a single glance gazed out the window directly in line with their bed, as Buffy smiled and said, "I think that's the reason I fell in love with you."
"That first night we spent together, when I had to go to the bathroom and when I came back you hugged me and helped chase the cold away, when I wouldn't have blamed you for waiting until I was warm again."
"Funny, and I thought it was because I'm such a wonderful person," Angel sighed in fake modesty.
"Only between the sheets," Buffy snickered.
"Oh, really?" Angel murmured, and tipped her face up so he could kiss her long and deep. He could feel his body responding to her nearness, to her scent, the way it always did-and, he hoped, always would. Buffy twisted so she could reach him and her nails scratched his bare chest and stomach lightly as they trailed down his body. They always slept nude when they spent the night together, having realized early in their relationship that wearing nightclothes when they slept together was pointless at best, annoying and hindering at worst.
As Buffy's slender fingers closed gently around his erection, Angel gasped into her mouth, and she breathed it in. Her hand moved up and down his shaft slowly and carefully, and Angel found himself rapidly approaching the point of no return. Remembering her last comment, he decided that he was going to be in charge this time.
Tenderly wrapping his fingers around the wrist of the hand that was doing such a good job of giving him pleasure, he pressed just hard enough to tell Buffy to let him go. He then brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed it. He could see her eyes flicker and soften before he gently moved her onto her back. It always amazed him that tough-as-nails Buffy could be so deeply moved by such little things.
Feeling the urge to prove to her just how wonderful he was between the sheets-a common urge, actually-he bent over her and kissed her long and deeply. Buffy cradled her head in his hands, and slid her tongue into his mouth. Angel then trailed kisses over her jawline and down her throat, lingering for a while before moving downwards. He'd never had a throat fetish before he met Buffy, but she brought out lots of things in him that he never knew about.
Buffy had only had a single brief love affair before him, while he had gone through a formidable amount of sexual partners. They had both suffered shattering betrayals by those they had loved-or thought that they did-but Buffy had turned inwards and locked away her libido, while Angel had turned outwards and sought oblivion in one woman after another in an attempt to convince himself that it hadn't been his failure as a man at fault.
Her lack of experience had never detracted from their physical relationship, in fact in some ways it had added to it. Angel got a huge thrill from teaching her things that were new or different for her, only to get an even bigger thrill when Buffy's fertile imagination had come up with completely new spins on old techniques. Angel buried his face in her neck and grinned, remembering one very interesting idea she'd come up with previously.
"What are you smirking about?" Buffy asked with a smile in her voice.
"Just remembering that Ming Dynasty trick you pulled on me last week. Where on earth did you pick that up, anyway?"
He could hear the smirk in Buffy's voice as she told him, "Restricted section of the library. Willow dug it up for me."
Angel lifted his head from her neck and asked, "You have Willow abusing her position of sacred trust as a Guardian of knowledge to do research for our love life?"
"Why Angel! What exactly are you implying?" Buffy asked in mock horror.
"Implying, hell, I just want to know what else she came up with."
"I'll show you later...if you're good."
That was a challenge that Angel just couldn't ignore, and he grinned at his lover wickedly as he slowly bent to take one of her nipples in his mouth, hard and begging for attention. Buffy moaned and arched into his touch, silently begging for more, and Angel was happy to oblige.
He gently circled the hard bud with his tongue, before sucking ferociously for a few seconds, then returning to tongue action. After a minute of this Buffy was writhing beneath him, so he turned his attention to her other nipple to give her a rest-of sorts-while he gently ran his fingertips up and down her arms, until she gave a breathless moan and thrust her hips up, telling him just where she wanted his mouth next.
Angel wasn't going to let her dictate to him like that-at least, not right now-so he stopped to kiss every inch of her midriff and stomach before moving down between her legs and licking her clit. Buffy gasped and came right off the bed, and Angel held her hips still as he licked and sucked some more until he slipped his tongue deep inside her and her inner muscles convulsed around his tongue as she came.
He groaned as her juices flowed over his tongue, reveling in the taste. It was better than French champagne, better than chocolate, better than anything else he'd ever tasted.
He was suddenly overcome with impatience to feel his body sink into hers, and groaned with need deep in his throat as he lifted his head. Buffy had her head thrown back and her eyes closed as she recovered from her orgasm, and Angel grinned in anticipation as he moved up her body. He'd made it his mission in the past two months to study every reaction her body had to his touch; he knew what happened when he entered her while she was in the state between climax and afterglow.
Grinning harder, he swiftly placed his hands on either side of her hips, and thrust into her hard, driving himself inside to the hilt with a single stroke. Buffy's eyes flew open and she gave a strangled cry. She flung her arms around his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist. Angel moved his hips, twisting his erection inside her, and Buffy came again, her center clenching him like velvet-covered steel.
Angel groaned, trying to hold back his own orgasm, but the sight of Buffy swept away by the pleasure that * he * had given her was too much. His arms gave out and he collapsed on top of her, pressing her into the mattress as he buried his face in her neck and moaned as he emptied inside her.
They lay still for a few moments, listening to the pounding of each other's heart. Even now, hearing her pulse race beneath his ear gave Angel a strange sort of peace. Times like this, he couldn't help wondering what he did to deserve this incredible woman who was his match in every way. He wished he knew exactly what it was, so he could do it again and again and again.
Feeling almost every muscle he had quiver, Angel returned to his previous position, on his side with Buffy curled up against him. He slid an arm around her waist and buried his face in her hair, feeling utterly content. He suddenly thought of something he'd been meaning to talk to Buffy about, and asked, "What are you doing for Christmas?"
"Willow and I usually go to her parents' house for Hanukkah, then to Hi Lo's for dinner on the day. Did you have something in mind?"
"Actually, I was hoping that you could spend it here with us."
"Really?" Buffy asked delightedly as she twisted to lie facing him. "Have you talked to the rest of your family about it?"
"Yeah, really. Giles wanted to know why I hadn't asked you earlier, William gave me one of those annoying grins, and Drusilla just smiled and said you would be here every Christmas for a long time."
"She's been reading tea leaves again, huh?" Buffy asked jokingly, not sure whether she wanted to let Angel see how good the prospect of being with him every Christmas for a long time sounded to her.
"I don't know. When she first said that she could see the future, I thought it was just a passing phase. I mean, when I was eleven I wanted to be invisible. But she's almost seventeen, and she's still as convinced now as when she started. Not to mention, I watched her do the tarot card readings she did for that party we had on Halloween, and I've lost count of how many people have told me that she was right about something."
Buffy frowned in thought and shrugged. "I busted a fake medium in one of my first cases. All I can tell you is that Dru doesn't show any of the tricks of the trade. She'd never make it as a professional psychic, she's not flashy enough."
"I think I'm relieved," Angel said, quirking an eyebrow. "Sometimes I worry about her. She acts like a child sometimes. Not in a bad way, she doesn't throw tantrums or anything. But she has such a trust in the world." Angel sighed as he lay on his back.
"Face it, love. We both have a deeper than normal acquaintance with the dark side of humanity," Buffy told him matter of factly, before laying her head on his shoulder. "Besides, you know that William will take care of her for as long as he lives."
"True. I can't believe that I didn't see that they were involved before. I wonder how long it will last. If there's a messy breakup, it could make life very difficult around here."
"I doubt it. William told me once that he wants to marry her once they graduate from college."
"It's that serious?" Angel asked, a little shaken.
"Yeah. The only reason he hasn't told you or Giles yet is that he's afraid of how you'll react."
"He was probably right to," Angel replied grimly. "I know the effects of marriage before you're ready for it. Very well."
Buffy bit her lip before she replied. She was always a little leery of talking about Angel's disastrous teenage marriage. "I think that in your case, it was more a case of the wrong woman."
"You may have a point," Angel sighed. He put an arm around Buffy and stroked her shoulder, more to reassure himself than her. She knew better than anyone else just how much in the past that was. "I just hope they're not making a commitment that might blow up in their faces."
Buffy winced. She had seen his reaction when he'd found out about the relationship between his younger brother and their British distant cousin; she certainly wasn't going to tell him that they were sleeping together, too. Buffy had made sure that Drusilla knew how to prevent pregnancy, and stayed out of it. That was a Roarke family matter, and she wasn't one. No matter how warm a glow the thought of being one gave her.
"Don't worry. Even if they do break up, they love each other too much to be enemies. But... about Christmas. How do we work this?"
"Well, do you have any cases that are likely to make you work twenty four hours a day?"
"No. I have a rich wife who's convinced her husband's cheating on her. She wants me to get her proof so she can squeeze him for a diamond necklace. I know I don't touch divorce cases anymore, but this is close. Let her sweat, I need a break. I'll be able to get better proof after New Year's, anyway."
"Well, how about I pick you up at your office on Christmas Eve?"
"Okay. If you want, you can pick me up in the morning at my place, give us more time."
"Everything's ready, except for something that can't be done until Christmas Eve. There's something that I was hoping you'd help me with, then."
"I'll tell you then. We'll be up late, and I'll be extra busy for the next couple of days, so that I can clear my calendar until January second. So I guess we'd better get some sleep, you can show me what else Willow came up with tomorrow."
Buffy giggled, before nestling closer and drifting off to sleep.
December 21, 1948
Hi Lo's, Chinatown LA
Buffy walked into her favorite restaurant, looking for her best friend. The owner - an old friend of theirs - approached, and they performed their usual ritual of greeting.
"Hello, Buffy," Hi Lo told her with a mock frown. "Willow asked me to tell you that she will be a few minutes late."
"Okay then, just give me a cup of coffee until she gets here."
Buffy sat down at her and Willow's regular table, and proceeded to people-watch the passersby on the street. The restaurant Hi Lo's was on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Chinatown, and the crowds were thick.
Buffy saw Willow approaching and smiled. Willow had recently had her auburn hair cut into a chin-length bob, and the memory of the haircut still had the ability to make Buffy laugh, remembering how Willow had refused to look and gripped her hand until Buffy could swear she heard the bones creak.
Buffy waved as Willow entered and hurried over to their table. "I'm sorry I'm late, but we're getting all set up for the stocktake early next year," Willow explained. She was working part-time at the Los Angeles public library to pay her fees at college, where she was working for a degree in higher mathematics.
"No problem. Is Wilkins still on your back?" Buffy asked in concern. Willow and the rest of the staff had been having a lot of trouble with the Head of the library's Board of Directors recently, due to the fact he was basically a nasty man whose only enjoyment of life came from the exercise of power.
"He's too busy toadying to all the people he wants favors from," Willow grimaced. "They're the only reason he's got such a prominent position in the first place. Bureaucracy."
Buffy smiled sympathetically, "Don't worry, Will. Soon as you finish your degree, some company will sweep you up and take you away from all this."
"You think?" Willow asked, half in skepticism and half in hope.
Hi approached with their regular orders, and the two young women dug in. After a few minutes of concentrated eating - so as not to insult Hi's cooking - Buffy said, "Angel's asked me to spend Christmas with him."
Willow gasped and replied, "I can't believe you didn't tell me sooner! This is so important...this is, like, indicative of heavy commitment!"
Buffy tried to hold it in, but her smile broke out. "I know. I love him so much, Will. It's just...well, I haven't exactly had the best of luck with men, y'know?" At Willow's sympathetic nod of agreement, Buffy continued, "Sometimes I get so scared...I wonder how I'll ever live without him."
"Oh, Buffy...look, I know I'm not exactly the best person to give advice about love - considering that I've never experienced it - but I see the way that Angel looks at you. Even the first time the three of us had dinner here, when you introduced us? He looked at you like you were the most beautiful woman in the world, and he touched you like you were made of gold or something. You've got what women dream about when they're reading romance novels."
Buffy started to giggle. "Will! Exaggerating a little, aren't you?"
Willow just looked at Buffy, and replied, "Not really, no. You have a man who looks like an angel, and has enough money and power to be mistaken for God, at least in LA. According to you he could give Don Juan lessons in lovemaking, AND he supports you in your career. Believe me, that last one's rare. He even approves of the fact you have your own life, and he always listens to your opinion, even if he doesn't agree with it."
Buffy bit her lip, looked down at the table and said, "I keep looking for the catch, I keep looking for the tarnish. I still can't believe that nothing's going to take my happiness away."
Willow's eyes widened, and she exclaimed, "Buffy, his former non-wife tried to kill you! Don't you think that's enough?" When Buffy didn't answer, Willow pursed her lips, and added in a deceptively demure tone, "Well, there's always the fact that he's had enough gorgeous women to fill up this restaurant, and that you don't have a ring-type commitment, you just have great sex. Also, you can be afraid that his family will suddenly hate you-"
"Will!" Buffy laughed, all moping gone. "I get your point! Let's just eat our food, okay?" When Willow grinned, nodded, and went to finish off her fried rice, Buffy's lips quirked and she added quietly, "Besides, it's incredible fireworks-type sex."
Willow looked up, her eyes round again, and Buffy giggled. Willow was so much fun to flabbergast. She muttered to herself, "That reminds me... Hi?"
"Yes, Buffy?" Hi asked, coming to their table.
"Is Min going to be in tomorrow? I wanted to consult her."
Hi nodded. "You must stay for Tea. Min has missed you, lately."
Buffy smiled and nodded. "I'd be happy to. I've missed our talks."
Hi Lo's mother, Hi Min, had a thriving business among Chinatown's residents as a herbalist. Buffy had become great friends with her and one of her few Caucasian clients; Min supplied the herbal potion that Buffy used as birth control. Buffy always maintained that Min's concoctions worked so well because she both understood and respected a woman's body; unlike male doctors who, deep down, didn't think a woman should be having sex outside marriage, and inside marriage should be having as many children as possible to prove their husband's virility.
Buffy did not have many good experiences with men doctors. The last one she'd encountered at LA General Hospital had lectured her on the inadvisability of being hit by bullets, saying she should leave it to the professionals. Only the presence of her old friend, Sargeant Louis Coppola, had stopped her from informing the prig that she was a professional, dammit, plus a few curses she'd picked up from Lou's brothers. Buffy considered that the only REAL men were those with brains - something else that she admired about Angel.
Buffy sighed, wondering if there would ever be a time when every train of thought didn't stop at the station called Angel Roarke. A part of her hoped that day would never come. She noticed Willow looking at her in concern, and smiled.
Willow asked, "Buffy, do you really think that Angel's ever going to part from you without a fight? I would say the man is seriously in love with you. You live with him on the weekends, and if Sunnydale wasn't so far from LA, it would be all the time. You know how protective he is of William and Drusilla; he wouldn't be making you so much a part of his family if he didn't want you around for a very long time."
Buffy tilted her head and looked at Willow fondly. "Willow, why do you always know the right thing to say to me?"
Willow grinned and replied, "It's a legacy from that ancestor who escaped the Salem Witch Trials. And I love you too."
The two women reached across the table and gripped hands warmly.
* * * * *
December 22, 1948
Hi family house, Chinatown LA
Buffy rang the doorbell once, then sat down on the small bench next to the front door of the Hi house. Even being on the porch gave her a sense of serenity. Buffy closed her eyes and felt the cold winter breeze caress her face, and listened to the wind chimes hanging from the roof. She heard the door unlocking and quickly got to her feet, turning to greet the woman who opened the door with a smile.
Min smiled in return, and beckoned Buffy inside. "Come into the garden, we shall have Tea."
Hi Min didn't look very formidable. While Buffy was 5 ft 3 inches in her bare feet, Min was even shorter. Her slight frame, combined with her innocent face-still beautiful, even with the wrinkles and wear of sixty five years of mostly hard living-caused people to underestimate her. That was a grave mistake.
Min was a skilled enough herbalist to make a living as an assassin. She'd told Buffy once that as a young woman in China, she had poisoned a man who had threatened to rape her if she didn't become his mistress. Buffy could easily believe it. Min was one of those people who, once they were sure that they were doing the right thing for the right reasons, took shockingly direct action. That streak of ruthlessness was one of the many things that Min and Buffy had in common.
Buffy followed Min through the house to the medium sized garden at the back. Over the twenty years that the Hi's had lived in this house, it had become a small, perfect, traditional Chinese garden.
Hi Min had inherited this house, one of the few in Chinatown, from a grateful client the second year of the Hi family's residence in the US. It had become the foundation of the Hi family fortunes. Min insisted that the house had excellent Feng Shui, but Buffy thought that Min and her son Lo's hard work had probably had something to do with it.
Hi Lo had introduced them when Buffy was eighteen; Buffy had been suffering from chronic headaches as she studied for her final high school exams, and Hi thought that his mother might be able to help. Min had helped in more ways than one, becoming the impartial advisor that Buffy had badly needed.
Indeed, though her son didn't know, Min had lent Buffy some of the money she needed to start her private investigation business. Buffy had repaid Min's faith as well as her money within a year, thanks to some contacts of her father Hank, a New York City District Attorney. Min had also been Buffy's greatest comfort when her mother, Joyce had died less than two years ago.
Buffy's relationship with Joyce had often been difficult when she was alive; Buffy never doubted that Joyce had loved her greatly, but sometimes wondered if Joyce had EVER understood her. Though things had improved after Hank and Joyce divorced when Buffy was fifteen, it was partly because Joyce had put so much time into building up her art gallery, leaving her a limited amount of time for the two to argue.
Things had gone downhill again after Buffy graduated high school with the intent to become a Private Investigator; Joyce had argued vehemently for Buffy going to college, where Joyce had hoped that she would outgrow her fascination with crime, and preventing it. Their relationship had only improved just before Joyce's death.
Hank Summers had remarried last year; he and Buffy had never been very close, and now his new family took up nearly all of his attention. He and Buffy spoke on the phone occasionally and wrote once a month, but Buffy was effectively an orphan at the grand age of twenty-one. Willow and Min filled the gap as best they could; now Angel, Giles, William, and Drusilla had joined them.
Buffy breathed deeply as she and Min entered the tiny hut in the center of the garden, in the exact place best suited to it. Min was Chinese, but her mentor in herbalism had been Japanese, and Min had adopted the Japanese Tea ceremony in his honor.
Buffy slipped out of her shoes and left them neatly by the doorway, next to Min's, and followed the older woman to the low table, unconcernedly hitching her skirt up high to sit cross-legged on the floor and across the table from Min.
Buffy let her mind empty of concerns as Min started the graceful, elaborate motions of the ceremony. Technically, the participants were supposed to be contemplating the cosmos and such things while the ceremony took place. Buffy still didn't see what contemplating the cosmos had to do with drinking tea, but she still enjoyed the ceremony.
The ceremony had seemed odd at first, the long sequences of involved, smooth and elegant movements. At first, it made as much sense as gold-plating corn kernels before turning it into popcorn, but as Buffy and Min spent more time together, Buffy had become used to it.
It had a calming effect on her; before she met Min, Buffy wasn't used to serenity. Buffy was a woman of tempestuous emotions, she did everything wholeheartedly. It was Min who had taught her how to harness and control those emotions, instead of letting them pull her every which way.
Buffy watched Min go through the last ritual, then they delicately sipped in unison. Buffy smiled, and waited for Min to speak.
"How is your life in these times, Buffy?"
Buffy let a big smile slip out before she could stop it, then decided to keep it on. "Very well. My business is steady, I have all the work I want. Mostly, I can pick and choose cases now - I was so sick of divorce cases!"
Min smiled gently, and replied, "That is not what I was referring to, and you know this."
Buffy nodded, she never could fool Min. She took a deep breath before she said, "Things with Angel are getting better and better. I keep wondering when it's going to be swept away." This was why she'd wanted to talk to Min; she was the wisest person Buffy knew.
"You do not have this fear with the other relationships in your life."
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.
"You do not have this fear in your relationship with Willow, or with me."
"I know you won't leave me, or betray me."
"How do you know this?"
"Your - our - history."
Min tilted her head, her gaze intent. "But you did not exhibit this fear with me, before our history existed."
"No. But I was younger then."
Min laughed softly, and pointed out, "You are not so very old now."
Buffy sighed and answered, "I feel like it sometimes."
Min's gaze became thoughtful, and she asked, "How would you feel if you lost Willow or myself?"
Buffy bit her lip and said, "I'd be sad. Grief-stricken. I'd cry for days, and always miss you."
"And if you lost Angel?"
Buffy was frozen; she could only stare at Min in horror. She had to swallow twice, before she spoke. "I'd be devastated, I don't know if I'd ever truly recover." Buffy babbled her answer, not censoring or even thinking about what she was saying.
Min smiled at her again, and asked, "Why do you feel so strongly about him? Why not us?"
"You and Willow are my friends. Angel is my love. You and Willow are... not replaceable, exactly, don't think that! But I can make other friends. I could never love anyone else the way that I do him."
"How do you feel when you are with him? How do you feel when he makes love with you?"
"Complete. Whole. Like I used to be a jigsaw puzzle with just one piece missing, but never knew it. But now I've found it."
Min's eyes glowed as she spoke. "That is as it should be. He is your mate, the kind of love that many search for, and few find."
Buffy's face was a mixture of hope and skepticism as she asked, "How do you know?"
"I found it myself. This kind of love is easy to recognize, once you knew what you are seeing." Buffy smiled in reply, and Min continued, "Now that you have found this love, cherish it. Treasure it. Always remember how blessed you are to have it. Any problems in this love will be brought upon it by the outside world. Draw strength from this bond, and face the challenges in your lives together, knowing that it is the love you share that will always guide your way home."
Buffy let out a long, slow breath, and smiled as she sipped her tea. She had always known this, deep inside. But it had taken Min to get her to recognize it.
* * * * *
December 24, 1948
348 Melrose Avenue, 4th floor
Buffy heard the knock on the door of her office, and took a lightning-quick check in the mirror in the tiny bathroom. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear and walked to the door, before opening it, smiling.
After one look at Angel, she took a deep breath to calm her racing heart. Angel usually had this effect on her, whenever she saw him after more than a day apart. She was so aware of him that the actual sight came as a shock.
"Ready to go?" Angel asked.
"I just need to grab my jacket and my bag." Angel stayed at the door as she turned back into her office. He'd abandoned his usual combination of black and white; he was wearing a red silk shirt, the same color as Santa's suit, and the effect was devastating. It only took a second to sling on her jacket and grab the large shopping bag, and they were on their way downstairs.
Angel watched the sway of Buffy's hips as she walked slightly ahead of him down the corridor. Buffy always seemed to be in a hurry, and her walk reflected it. Angel had learned how to make others wait, and his walk reflected that. Besides, the view was much better from here.
In honor of the holiday, Buffy was wearing a green silk dress that matched her eyes, and when she'd answered the door, Angel had come close to falling in love with her all over again.
When they reached his car, as Angel opened the door for Buffy, he asked, "What's in the bag?"
"Christmas presents." When he got in the car, he knew Buffy had seen the pleasantly surprised look on his face, because she told him chidingly, "Did you seriously think that I'd come to spend Christmas with your family, and not bring presents? I just hope I've gotten the right thing for William and Drusilla."
As they started to drive off, Angel told her, "I'm sure they'll love their presents."
Buffy shot him a look, and retorted, "I want them to say they like their presents because they really do like them, not because they know you'll ground them if they don't."
"I wouldn't do that." At Buffy's skeptical look, Angel added, "Really. I know you'd see right through it, so what would be the point?"
Buffy and Angel sat together companionably on the couch in the library, sipping eggnog in front of the fire. It had become unusually cold for California, even in December, so the fire was tolerable. Buffy finished her drink, kicked off her high heels and stood up to set her glass on the mantelpiece, before reaching into the nook that she'd hidden the bag in.
At Angel's curious look, she grinned and told him, "I thought it might be nice if everyone found an extra present tomorrow morning."
As she bent to put the packages beneath the live pine tree in a large pot, it's branches bare, Angel asked, "So what did you get everyone?" At Buffy's look, he protested, "I didn't ask what mine was!"
Buffy smiled, and replied, "I remember Giles telling me once that he liked Yeats, so I got him a copy of one of the collections. I snooped in the library, and I didn't find it, so I figured that he doesn't already have it. I got William a record; a new swing recording, I know he likes it. I got Drusilla a doll for her collection; Min helped me get one from China. She doesn't have one of those yet, does she?"
Angel shook his head and replied, "She has one dressed in a Chinese dress, but no doll actually from China. She'll love it. They all will."
"I'm glad," Buffy smiled. She took a step backwards, and looked up at the empty tree. "I've been meaning to ask, Angel - why isn't your tree decorated?"
"Old family tradition, made out of necessity. The first Christmas after my father died and I took over the family business, I was so busy that I didn't have time to bring the tree in from the grounds until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We managed to pack the children off to bed early enough that we had barely started the tree. When William and Drusilla came down the next morning, they said it was like the tree had been decorated and stocked with presents like magic. They liked it so much, Giles and I kept up the tradition. Every year, we bring the tree in and a few presents are put beneath it - the ones we get from people at school or work - but it doesn't get decorated and most of the presents put under it until Christmas Eve, when nearly everyone's in bed."
"I like it." Buffy looked at Angel and the penny dropped. "That's what you wanted me to help you with?" At Angel's smiling nod, she asked, "Doesn't Giles normally do this with you?"
"He suggested that you might like to help me this year."
Buffy's face glowed, and Angel silently thanked Giles all over again for suggesting this. It was a definite sign to both he and Buffy, that Giles approved of Buffy becoming part of the family for good. It was a notion that Angel had been considering more and more seriously lately. God knows that his first try with marriage had been nothing short of catastrophic, but as time went by, the more he wanted Buffy to be with him always.
"So, let's get started! Where do you keep the ornaments?"
Angel stood up and told her, "The boxes are on the second level, behind the second shelf from the window, that's filled with William and Drusilla's old school textbooks. You grab the boxes and bring them down here; I need to do something upstairs."
Buffy nodded, and Angel headed out the doors.
When Buffy had brought down the fifth and last box, she opened them all. The ornaments were grouped according to type, and Buffy recognized signs of Giles' organized mind. One box was filled with baubles of all colors, another with various shaped ornaments, yet another with lopsided and none too solid looking decorations that must have been made by Angel, William and Drusilla at various stages in childhood. A few had obviously been made for school projects; Buffy had made some of these herself. Another box was filled to brimming with sparkling tinsel, a glittering rainbow of various length garlands.
The last box held only one thing, an exquisitely made and painted china angel. Obviously an antique.
Buffy just looked at it in the box, until she heard Angel call her name softly. She turned around, and she could have sworn that her heart actually flipped.
Angel had turned off the lights on the way in, and his bare chest gleamed in the firelight. Buffy swallowed hard as her eyes traced down his body. No matter that she'd seen his naked body countless times, now; she couldn't keep from wanting to trace the lines of his chest down to his waistband. His black silk pyjama pants whispered as he moved to kneel beside her.
"Where's your clothes?" Buffy asked, relieved when her voice didn't crack.
"Part of the tradition. Have to decorate the tree in your nightclothes."
"But I didn't bring my nightgown. Not as if it does any good, around here."
Angel smiled, and replied, "I took care of that." He brought out a gaily wrapped present from behind his back, and handed it to her. He cradled her chin in his fingers, and murmured, "Merry Christmas, my darling."
Buffy sighed and kissed him gently and thoroughly. She broke away from him to fetch the bag she'd brought the presents in. She took his hands and led him to the big armchair, next to and facing away from the fire, so someone could read by it. She pushed him down into it gently, wrapping his hands around the end of the armrests. She sat on his lap and hid a smile, as she felt his manhood stir underneath her. She eagerly ripped open the present, and grinned when she saw the black silk nightgown. She shifted her leg a little to compare it with Angel's pants, and simply raised her eyebrows at him when she discovered that they matched, embroidered with the same black-on-black pattern.
She slid off his lap, letting the paper drop to the floor, and laid the nightgown over the couch. It would come to just above her ankles, and she had no doubts that the spaghetti straps were exactly the right length.
She turned to face Angel, and ordered, "Stay there. Don't move." She then undid the buttons of her dress, one by one. Angel was shifting in his seat by the time she'd gotten to her waist. She slowly slid the dress off her shoulders, to puddle on the floor around her feet. She bent over, carefully folded it so it wouldn't wrinkle and placed it into the bag. She then slid her slip off her shoulders and did the same, leaving her in her underwear.
She hid a grin at Angel's audible intake of breath when she casually placed her left foot next to his thigh, and undid her stocking from her garter. She kept her eyes on her fingers as they slowly rolled the stocking down her leg, catching Angel's fingers tightening on the armrests in her peripheral vision.
When the stocking only held onto her toes, she slid it off and dangled it in the air, almost brushing Angel's face before she tucked it in the bag. She took her foot off the chair and stood straight for a long moment, before placing her other foot on the chair next to his thigh. Angel wrapped one hand on her ankle, the other around her lower calf, and started to slide his hands slowly up her leg.
Buffy nailed him with a look, and Angel's hands froze. She kept her look as severe as possible, given the fact that she desperately wanted him to kiss her long and hard, and told him coldly, "I told you not to move. That means keep your hands on the chair."
Angel's eyes danced with desire and mischief, as he asked, "And what happens if I don't?"
Buffy leaned forward and breathed, "Or I won't play with you anymore tonight," so close that her breath touched his lips. She knew Angel could tell she was serious, because his hands left her leg and returned to the arms of the chair.
Just to punish him, she moved her foot between his legs and wiggled her toes. She undid and unrolled her stocking even more slowly this time, and when she slipped it off her toes, she moved her fingertips to lightly brush his balls through the silk of his pajama pants.
Taking a step back to put her just out of his reach, she swiftly undid her garter belt and tossed it into the bag. She saw Angel's eyes flicker when she undid her bra, and his hands flex on the chair when she threw it into the bag, making her now bare breasts bounce. She turned her back to him, only now letting her wicked smile break free, and bent at the waist as she drew her underpants down. Her smile grew wider as she heard Angel give a tiny groan.
She kept her back to Angel as she slid the bag under the couch with one foot, then picked up the nightgown and slid it over her head, letting herself shiver with sensory pleasure at the way it flowed over her body. She had silk blouses, a few silk dresses and silk stockings, but never a silk nightgown, never worn silk next to her skin all the way down. She couldn't stop her hands from running over her body through the silk as she turned around.
Putting on her most innocent face, she chirped, "Well, that's enough of that. Let's trim the tree!"
She nearly lost it at the incredulous look on his face as she tripped over to the tree. Feeling joy sparkle in her veins like the French champagne Angel had given her the night they'd first made love, Buffy caught up a long garland of silver tinsel and wound it around her neck like a 1920's feather boa, letting it dangle to below her knees.
She spun in place, and Angel caught her, pulling her body close to his as he kissed her thoroughly. Buffy wound her arms around his neck and sighed into his mouth, moving against him enthusiastically as he slid his hands down her back to caress her ass and press his erection into her stomach.
Buffy broke the kiss and smiled as she told him, "Let's do the tree first, ok?" At Angel's look, she told him, "I want to watch the tree sparkle above us." Angel smiled in return and let her go.
Angel passed Buffy another ornament, and smiled at the intent way she circled the tree, trying as hard as she could to find the very best place for it. This despite the fact that said ornament was a lopsided square covered in sequins and glitter, some of which had fallen off. Drusilla had made it in third grade.
His straining erection had relaxed somewhere between the hand-blown glass balls he'd brought home from Venice two years ago, and the whimsical figure of Santa stuck in the chimney that William had found when he was fourteen. He'd found that watching Buffy like this, so intent on doing this family ritual correctly, made him feel a heat that had nothing to do with lust, and everything to do with love.
She still had the glittering boa of tinsel around her neck, and it sparkled as she moved. She carefully hooked it over a branch and swung to face him with a smile. "Finished!"
Angel smiled in return and bent to pick up the very last box. He told her, "Not quite," as he opened it to show her the porcelain angel, so meticulously modeled and painted that it almost looked alive. Buffy put her hands behind her back, the same way she did at museums and art galleries - her mother had taught her well - and looked with wide eyes.
"It's beautiful," she said.
"My great-grandmother bought it for her first Christmas with my great-grandfather." Angel carefully took the angel out of the box and handed it to her.
Buffy looked at the angel, then back at him. "You want *me* to put it on?"
Angel nodded, then gently picked Buffy up in his arms and carried her the short distance to the Christmas tree. When he put her down on her feet again, he bent to wrap his arms around her thighs and lifted her so that she could reach the top of the tree. When Buffy said, "Just let me see if it's straight," Angel buried his face in the small of her back and kissed her through the silk. He could feel Buffy shiver, and she hissed, "Angel!"
"I'd never drop you," Angel said, not knowing how he knew what she was about to say. He backed away, and loosened his grip just enough to let Buffy slide slowly through his arms, until her toes touched the floor. Buffy slipped from his embrace and surveyed the tree one last time.
The sensation of Buffy's body sliding against his had made his erection snap back with almost painful force, and Angel decided that they'd spent enough time on the tree.
Angel took hold of the end of the tinsel, and flicked it off her shoulder as he grabbed the other end, wrapping it around Buffy like a rope, using it to pull her into his arms. Buffy giggled and Angel wrapped his arms around her in such a way that it was impossible for her to move. Buffy just smiled as he kissed her, his tongue sliding into her mouth and searching for a hollow or crevice it hadn't yet found.
When they were both breathless, he kissed the corner of her mouth, then left a trail along her jaw to the spot behind her earlobe that always made her moan. This time, when he flicked his tongue over the sensitive place, Buffy moaned and went limp so rapidly that if Angel hadn't been holding her so tightly, she would have fallen to the floor.
Angel gently caressed her, letting the silk of her nightgown carry his movements and magnifying the sensual effect on her skin. He heard her moan again, and the sound made his head spin. He gently lowered her the floor under the tree and kissed her again, letting go of the tinsel. Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and rubbed her leg along his, undulating underneath him until Angel felt his body start to tremble.
He buried his face in her neck, and kissed along her throat as he slid the straps off her shoulders. As the nightgown traveled downward, he followed the path with his kisses, trailing over her upper chest, then between her breasts, then over her midriff and stomach. He kissed along her left thigh and down to her knee, then took off the nightgown the rest of the way and looked at Buffy.
Her head was thrown back and her eyes closed, her skin glowing in the light from the fire and the lights strung in the tree. She still wore the tinsel, and the silver strands glittered in a rope that twisted around her body. His hands close to shaking, Angel stripped off his pajama pants, his eyes never leaving Buffy's face.
Slowly her eyes opened, and she looked at him, her gaze so heated it could burn him as surely as the fire that blazed not ten feet away. She held out her arms and at her silent signal Angel covered her body with his own and her lips with his. They parted just long enough for Buffy to say, "Now, Angel... I don't want to wait."
As always, her wish was his command. Angel entered her in one smooth stroke, making her clench around him in her pleasure as she climaxed. He hadn't realized that she'd been almost as aroused this whole time as he had been.
Angel started a slow, regular rhythm that he knew he wouldn't be able to keep up for long. Buffy arched beneath him and wrapped her legs around his waist to give him deeper access to her. Their lips met and tongues entwined as they moved together in perfect harmony.
Angel increased the force and speed of his thrusts as he felt the pressure build within him, and knew that he was close. Needing to feel Buffy come with him, he worked his hand between their writhing bodies and stroked her clit. Her inner core clamped down on him ruthlessly, and Angel felt the pressure explode as he came deep inside her. With the last of his strength, Angel rolled them onto their sides, still holding her close.
After a few minutes, Angel scooped Buffy into his arms and stood up. He bent so that Buffy could collect his pajama pants and her nightgown, and walked towards the library doors.
"My clothes-" Buffy started.
"We can get them tomorrow morning. We'll sneak the bag upstairs while everyone's eating lunch."
As they crept up the stairs, Buffy looped the tinsel around Angel's neck, and murmured, "If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you."
* * * * *
December 25, 1948
Rupert Giles didn't make a sound as he walked across Angel's bedroom to the window. After years of being woken up by enthusiastic children - first Angel, then William and Drusilla - Giles found himself unable to break the habit of waking up early on Christmas morning, and used the time to bring his 'children' a treat.
Giles put the breakfast tray on the table underneath the window, and quietly pulled back the curtains. He turned, and almost gasped at the picture before him.
He couldn't help but be touched, either from sheer aesthetic appreciation - like a picture out of an ancient book of love - or from the love he had for the couple in the huge bed. For he did love Buffy, she had become a part of his family too. None of them bore his name, but they were a family all the same.
The early morning light threw Angel's features into sharp relief, making him look more like a sculpture than ever. He smiled slightly in his sleep as he tightened the arm that was wrapped around Buffy. Giles couldn't stop himself from smiling in return; he hadn't seen Angel look so happy since...well, he hadn't ever seen Angel as happy as he was now that he had Buffy.
Buffy was lying on her side with her left arm thrown across Angel in an unconscious sign of possession. Her head was nestled on his shoulder, and she mumbled faintly as she turned her face into his chest. Giles could have sworn she said, "I love you."
The sheet was tangled around their waists, and one of Buffy's breasts was not quite bared to his gaze. As Buffy snuggled closer to Angel, he lifted his right hand to take her left and Giles caught a glimpse of something sparkly wound around his wrist and up his arm. He bit his lip and left swiftly and silently. He didn't let the chuckle out until he was in the hallway and the door was securely closed. How on earth had Buffy persuaded Angel to let her tie a garland of tinsel on him?
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