Music Store – afternoon
Becca and Giles casually walked through the guitar store examining the various styles and equipment.
"Umm," Becca said pointing up to the guitar above her head. "Should I get the same thing or go for something else?"
"Which one?" Giles asked.
"This blue one," Becca said inspecting it. "It's just like the one I lost in the bar brawl with Satan's henchmen," she joked.
Giles grinned. "You're taking all of this in stride," he complimented.
"Well, I've rarely dated a woman who could handle t-the…goblins…of my occupation. It was always a bit too frightening for them."
Becca shrugged. "Maybe you just never met the right gal," she smirked. "Besides, monsters are everywhere – whether they're in our mind or the ones we have to deal with day in and day out, like the grumpy book-buying customer. Your monsters just happen to be literal but I've seen you in action first hand…you know what you're doing."
"Actually, speaking of that…" Giles began nervously. Becca waited for him to continue. "My colleagues expressed an interest in meeting you since we've been spending quite some time together lately. If you'd rather not, I'd understand but I told them –."
"Meet your friends?"
"Against my better judgment, yes," he told her.
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise and she cocked her head.
"Oh no, not you – them," he insisted. "I'm grateful for all of them, don't misunderstand. They just have a tendency of…well, taking every opportunity to tease me horribly and I'm not sure if you're ready to subject yourself to that."
Becca chuckled. "You don't think I can handle myself?" she egged.
"Not at all. It's just…you don't know them as I do. They can be merciless at times and I'm afraid they might offend you."
"So let me see if I understand this," Becca began and lowered her voice. "You'll face off against a wrinkly faced demon with twice your strength but your friends scare you?"
"I didn't say it was a rational fear," Giles answered with a smile.
Becca chuckled. "Okay now I have to go. I'm too intrigued not to."
At that moment the clerk walked over to the pair.
"Can I help you folks with something?" he asked.
"Yeah, I thought about getting this blue one up there but the red one is starting to have an appeal. Mind if I give them both a try?" she asked.
"Not at all," he told her. "Let me get the ladder."
"Thanks," she told him as he scurried away.
"Whichever one you decide on," Giles told her. "I insist on buying it."
"I couldn't ask you to do that," Becca told him.
"Why? If I did would you feel obligated in any way to continue seeing me? If so that's not the case. It was my ineptness of not being prepared that resulted in the damage."
"No, it was my choice to smash it over that guy's head in the bar fight," Becca insisted.
They both paused and looked over to see the clerk standing there with a grin. Becca began to redden at being overheard and the clerk simply waved his hands.
"Hey, as long as you're a paying customer, why you need a new guitar doesn't matter to me."
"Well I'm a lot tougher than I look," Becca quipped to him as she watched him walking up the ladder.
"If being tough keeps you coming back here, I got no complaints," he teased as he handed the blue guitar to her. Carefully, he stepped back down. "Red one's just the same as that, just…you know…red."
"What's your return policy?" Becca asked as she tested the weight of it.
"30 days…but it all has to be in one piece," he smirked.
"Funny guy," she told Giles pitching a thumb toward the clerk. She held it a few more moments. "Okay, I think I'll live on the edge and try something different. Let's go with the red."
"Certainly," the clerk said with a nod taking the guitar back and hanging it up.
"And make sure to put a nice big bow and ribbon on it," Giles instructed.
"Rupert," Becca reprimanded.
"You're not the only one who can be headstrong here," he said giving his charge card to the clerk before she could.
Becca gave a defeated sigh as she watched the clerk walk away.
"Thank you," she told Giles more in frustration than in sincerity.
"You're quite welcome," he replied cheerful, satisfied that he had won.
Watchers Council – Computer lab
Faith walked by the computer lab and noticed the lights on but no one around. She reached inside flicking them off.
"Hey!" she heard Willow exclaim.
Just as quickly she flicked them back on.
"Oh, sorry Red. Didn't know anyone was in here." She walked inside and started to look around. "Where the hell are you?"
Willow popped up from under a desk and began to brush herself off.
"Just getting ready for the return of our WITs after Christmas break. Figured I'd do the upgrades now."
"WITs?" Faith prompted.
"Watchers in training. So what are you up to today?" Willow asked.
Faith shrugged. "Bored. All the girls have gone home to be with their families so I've got no one to boss around," she said taking a seat on one of the desktops. "I tried it with Brat but…" she added with a grin.
"Didn't go as planned?"
"Far from…so, who did you draw?" Faith asked, trying to keep the conversation going.
"The secret Santa – who'd ya draw?"
"If I told you it wouldn't be a secret anymore now would it?" Willow retorted as she checked the connection on the back of a computer.
"Oh come on," Faith chuckled. "Who'd you get? I got Rowena and I don't have the faintest idea what to get her. Hey, you're a Watcher! What do Watchers like?"
"You can't go wrong with office supplies," Willow told her with a nod.
Faith just laughed. "Yeah, that just screams of individual attention. Nah…she's got that crossbow. Thought about maybe some practice arrows or something like that."
"That could work," Willow told her as she began to start up one of the computers.
"So out with it – who'd you get?"
Willow hesitated. "Kennedy," she sighed.
"Oh man, you really got a tough one to buy for," Faith chuckled. "Poor Will."
Willow hesitated and bit her bottom lip. "It's not as easy as you might think."
"Whatta ya mean?"
"Well I went to the mall. Figured I get something that she and I could both enjoy. Not that I'm the type of person to buy a gift for someone and say 'Since you don't like it can I have it?'…I just wanted something that maybe we could enjoy together." Faith started to smirk. "And not in a sexy way like you're thinking," Willow added with a slight grin.
"I said nothing of the kind, Red," Faith teased.
Willow just grinned but quickly the grin began to disappear. "But you know what? Once I got there I realized…there isn't anything that she and I both like…well, except for maybe the sexy stuff. A-And once I thought about that I…I started to wonder what else was there really? I mean, is it just about sex? Because there's more to being with someone than just 'being' with someone."
Faith didn't say anything.
"Maybe I shouldn't be telling you this," Willow said, trying to make herself look busy again.
"Why not? I thought we actually got somewhere in trusting each other," Faith answered a bit disappointed.
"No, I mean yes, we have, but…you're Ken's friend a-and maybe I'm talking to the wrong person here."
"Oh hey, don't worry about that. I won't say anything to her but…the girl adores you. You know that, right?"
"Yeah, I do," Willow answered with a tinge of guilt.
A small silence passed between them until Faith spoke again. "Boy, Red. I'm not sure what to say here."
"Not sure or you just don't want to say it?"
Faith started to look guilty. "She's a great person. Arrogant and pig headed sometimes but…I think it's the Slayer in her," Faith added with a smile hoping to lighten the mood.
"She is a great person," Willow echoed. "But…"
"She not great for you," Faith finished.
Willow looked like she was going to try to argue but stopped herself. Faith stood up and took a few steps closer to Willow.
"Look, you said it yourself. Ken's a friend of mine. But so are you. And I can be a friend to both so chill…but if it's not clickin' Will, cut her loose. Sure it's gonna hurt her but in the end...she'll be better off. You both will."
Faith squeezed Willow's arm, "We can talk more at the Yule shindig tonight if you want," she offered. She gave Willow a supportive grin as she walked out of the room. With a pensive expression, Willow watched her leave.
Watchers Council Kitchen – Later that Day
Andrew was listening to the stereo on full blast, bobbing his head around as he cleaned the stove and sang out loud. Tracey simply grinned and shook her head as she unloaded the dishwasher.
"Guess who's back? Back again. Shady's back. Tell a friend. Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, whaillll…yeah, yeah, ya –."
Giles looked at Becca and rolled his eyes.
"Andrew will you turn that noise down for a moment!" the Watcher shouted.
"Oh!" Andrew spun around and raced over to the radio, turning the knob down. "Sorry, I didn't hear you come in Mr. Giles. I was just –."
Before he could finish Becca began to sing.
"I've created a monster, cuz nobody wants to see Marshall no more. They want Shady. I'm chopped liver. Well if you want Shady, this is what I'll give ya – a little bit of me mixed with some hard liquor." She paused and motioned to Andrew to continue and he joined in with a big smile.
"Some vodka that'll jumpstart my heart quicker then a shock when I get shocked at the hospital by the doctor when I'm not cooperating, when I'm rocking the table while he's operating. Hey!"
Becca looked over at Giles and his mortified expression made her bust out laughing, unable to keep up any longer. Andrew turned down the radio even more and took a few strides over to them with a curious expression.
"Who are you?" he asked Becca.
"Good question," Giles said as he shook off his alarm. "This is Becca from the bookstore who, until just now, didn't appear to be insane at all."
"Good to see you again," she said taking Andrew's hand.
"Ohhhhh Becca," he remarked. "That's right! Sorry I didn't recognize you when you were singing 'cause I thought you were like…old."
Giles looked like he could spit nails but Becca simply laughed. "Well in all fairness, compared to you I am."
"But you like Eminem?"
Becca gave a shrug. "Can't say I'm a big fan but I like most popular music."
"Neither am I," Andrew confessed. "But I have to admit I like that one…So what else do you listen to? You've got a band, right? Do you play-?"
Andrew was continuing to babble when Faith, Kennedy and Willow walked into the kitchen together.
"Woah!" Faith gave a mock stumbling step backward. "Damn Giles, how'd you score such a hottie?"
"Faith," Giles sighed, trying to hide his embarrassment.
Faith ignored him and turned to Willow and Kennedy. "Of course, you two are better judges than I am in this department. Am I wrong?"
Kennedy examined Becca a moment. "Nah, I'd have to agree. She's a babe."
Willow slapped Kennedy's arm and walked over extending her hand as she continued to shake her head at their antics.
"Just ignore them," she told Becca. "I'm Willow Rosenberg," she added with a sincere smile and an outstretched hand.
"Really nice to meet you," Becca answered with a shake.
"And you won't believe it," Andrew interrupted. "She likes rap. And probably hip hop, too," he told Willow. Without delay he turned to Becca, "Hip hop too, right?" he asked excitedly.
Becca chuckled at his enthusiasm. "There're many types of music I enjoy. My bandmates range in age from 50 to 21 so we know how to play a little bit of everything."
"Oh that's right," Willow added. "Giles mentioned you both play guitar."
"Yeah, he's heard me play but I have yet to hear him," Becca remarked in almost a challenge.
"Well, yes, moving on," Giles said trying to change the subject.
"Oh Giles is really good," Willow told her. "A-and he's got a great sexy voice too."
"AND he sings?" Becca asked Willow before looking to Giles to explain. When he took a sudden interest in his shoes Becca went on. "Well my, my…this is turning out to be quite the educational field trip."
"Again I'll say, moving on," Giles tried again.
"Hmm," Becca hummed in thought before she turned to Willow. "My band has a gig coming up. We play a local VFW Hall every year. It's this formal/semi-formal event for the holidays."
"Sounds like fun," Kennedy added.
"It is," Becca told her. "We've got all kinds of ages there – anywhere from one to 92," she teased as if singing 'The Christmas Song'. "You're all invited. And who knows? Maybe you guys could try to get Rupert on stage for at least one set?"
"Oh that would be cool!" Willow told her. "Wouldn't that be neat, Giles?"
"Yes, smashing," he answered trying to sound accepting of the idea but failing.
"What's neat?" Robin asked as he entered the kitchen. When he got further inside he saw Becca and he smiled. "Oh, hi there," he said coming over, slipping his arm around Faith. "I'm Robin Wood. You must be Becca."
"That I am," she nodded. "Pleasure to meet you."
"We just got invited to a Christmas party, Ace," Faith told him.
"When is it?" Robin asked with a smile.
"Tomorrow night," Becca told him. "From eight to midnight."
He nodded at first but then quickly turned to Faith. "Oh the park has that light festival thing we were gonna do, remember?" Robin told her.
"Yeah but the party starts at eight so we could always hit both. Well, unless you've got another hot date lined up that night," Faith joked.
"Riiight, like that's gonna happen." Robin smirked at Faith before he turned to Becca. "Looks like you can count us in."
"We could probably go too," Kennedy offered.
Willow looked panicked for a split second but pushed it down and turned to face Kennedy. "We were going to go out to dinner tomorrow night," Willow reminded.
"Well like Faith said," Kennedy answered. "We'll go a bit early and have plenty of time to make the party."
"Oh yeah, I guess that would work out," Willow answered with a hint of nervousness.
Giles appeared to assess Willow a moment but shook it off and turned to Becca. "Well now that you've survived the interview process," he joked, "…would you like to see the rest of the grounds? I'm sure our other associate Rowena is somewhere. Most likely the library."
"Absolutely," she told Giles before she turned back to the group. "It was nice meeting you all."
They voiced their different farewells collectively as Giles took Becca by the hand, leading her from the room.
As the group went back to their tasks Andrew turned to Tracey.
"Mmm, would you like to go too?" he asked in a quiet voice. "I mean she did ask all of us and you just started like…well today…but it might be nice to go – not like in a date way," he stressed. "I don't want you to think you have to go to keep your job or anything. I know there're laws against that kinda stuff. I just want you feel included is all. With just joining you might not think she meant you too but it would be a nice chance to get to know everyone more."
Tracey simply smiled. "Sure, I think I can wrestle up some formal/semi-formal wear."
"Very cool," Andrew answered, "but not in a dating kinda way again. Because like I said, laws and stuff."
"No I understand," she answered. "And thank you for including me – even in a non-date way," she reassured him with a teasing grin.
Summers House – Evening
"Uno!" two teenagers called out although one was slightly quicker than the other. The two young women sat at a coffee table across from one another.
"Ah ha! Tried to get me but it didn't work," the redhead said triumphantly.
"Oh yeah," Dawn smirked. "Draw four," she said placing the card down.
"Oh man," Skye sighed. "You cheat!"
Dawn began to laugh when there was a knock.
"I'll get it," she yelled up the stairs as she untangled her crossed legs, going to the door.
She saw a camper parked in the driveway as she opened the door but no one around. She began to grin.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Xander said as he stepped out from his hiding spot against the house.
Dawn began to squeal and hop up and down in place before pulling him inside the house and into a tight hug.
"You're early," she told him excitedly.
"Well I could leave," he said trying to make his way to the porch.
Dawn pulled him into the house. "Don't you dare," she threatened before she turned to the stairs. "Buffy! Xander's here!"
"Got in sooner than I expected. Hope I don't put you guys out," he said.
"Are you kidding?" Dawn asked. "This is great." Slowly, Skye made her way over to the door.
"Hi," she said with a timid wave.
"Oh," Dawn said slightly embarrassed. "Sorry. Xander this is Skye. Skye, Xander Harris."
"Nice to meet you," she nodded politely.
"Nice to get a chance to finally meet you too," he answered. "Actually when Dawn..." Xander trailed off and looked at Dawn who was examining him. "You know it's not polite to stare," Xander told her.
"Sorry," Dawn blushed. "I wanted to see if it was really a different color, and it is, but not by much. Willow does good work."
"You know if you were older and a little less innocent, I'm sure I could come up with a witty yet blue retort."
"I'm not as innocent as I look," Dawn told him.
"I'll vouch for that," Skye added.
Xander felt his own cheeks turn red at the comment. "I bet you're a handful now," he said shaking his head at Dawn. "Slaying vamps is probably easier than…" Xander trailed off and looked up at the figure at the top of the stairs.
"Raising an incorrigible, hormonal sister?" Buffy asked him as she walked down the stairs.
He slowly made his way over to the landing and waited for her arrival with a grin firmly planted on his face. The closer she got the more he could see how moist her eyes were.
"Hello Xander," she said softly as she pulled him into a hug. She held him for a few moments before adding, "I told myself I wouldn't cry."
"Hey, as long as they're happy tears, cry away," he told her.
She gave a half chuckle and sniffed dramatically as she pulled away. "Most definitely the happy variety," she told him with a firm nod as she gripped his upper arms. "Oh and before I forget, Dawn's got the web cam all hooked up. There's a redhead expecting a Snoopy Christmas dance."
"But Skye's right here," he said knowingly, pitching a thumb toward Dawn's girlfriend.
"Not that redhead," Buffy told him with a smile. "The other one – in Cleveland?"
"Oh, that one," Xander teased, fully aware of who Buffy was talking about. In afterthought he turned to Dawn, "Wait. She's a redhead too." He pointed playfully at Skye. "Do I sense a connection of some type?" he asked the group.
"There is no connection," Dawn said defensively.
"You're not a witch too, are you?" he asked Skye.
Skye chuckled. "No I'm not. Well five days outta the month maybe, but no. No witchiness to speak of."
Xander gave a light chuckle. "She even sounds like Will," he added turning to Buffy.
Buffy just smirked and nodded. "We've had this discussion."
"Yes we have and I'm not being transfer-y," Dawn piped in. "Come on Xan, let's give you the grand tour," she said pulling him out of the foyer. Buffy and Skye followed along with Buffy putting her arm around Skye's shoulder.
Presidium Lair – Evening
"Your contacts have Santra then?" the spiny backed demon asked Bonnie.
"Yes sir," she nodded. "We' re currently researching a way to send him back into his dimension but there might be complications that could be connected to his return."
"Complications don't concern me," he told her.
"I realize that but if we get the portal open for only a short time…others might be left behind."
Bonnie nodded. "Some Santas have turned up missing in the city recently. And Santra made mention of…'them finding him'."
The Presidium minion laughed. "So Santra has, what, elves?"
"So he says or, at least, elf-like followers that might be looking for him."
"And this concerns me how, Bonnie?" the demon asked.
"I'd like a few more hands to help in the search and capture of his helpers. If they succeed and Santra escapes and begins to disembowel the children of Cleveland then –."
"I see. We can't have that," he nodded. "And we might need Santra's aid once the plan is in motion. No need to burn bridges, or, fellow demons to death. I understand your dilemma."
"So might you send a few demons to aid in the recovery?" she asked.
"I'll send them by tonight," he told her with a nod.
"Very good, sir. Thank you."
He gave her another nod and she began to leave.
"Oh, Bonnie," he called out. She stopped and turned to face him. "If we don't meet before then…How do you say… A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours."
Bonnie snorted. "The same to you, sir," she said politely with a smirk.
End of Act Two
Onto Act Three