Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Evening
Willow was seated at the laptop computer she had hooked up earlier and was typing away.
“Okay everybody,” she told them. “Gather ’round. Show’s about to start.”
Giles, Becca, Kennedy, Rowena, Faith, Andrew, Tracey, Vi and Rona all squeezed around the small screen.
“Hey! Tall people to the back!” Faith said to Giles. who was standing in front of her. He grinned and moved to the side, standing behind Becca and letting Faith step forward.
They all collectively watched the screen with slight grins. Suddenly everyone started laughing at once.
“And this is Xander and Dawn’s ode to Peanuts?” Becca asked between chuckles.
“Yes, and as you can see, I really don’t know anyone who’s sane,” Giles replied.
Willow wiped her eyes and typed a message into the screen as the crowd began to move away. Willow noticed Giles was still standing behind her and typed something else. Suddenly the camera moved and they saw Buffy wave and blow a kiss. Willow turned around and saw Giles beaming and a bit misty eyed. Not wanting to stare, she turned back around.
“Giles says Hi,” was all Willow typed.
“That’s your slayer?” Becca asked.
“Beautiful young woman,” she replied. “She looks like a sweetheart.”
“Yes,” Giles remarked proudly. “A sweetheart who has saved the world many times over the years.”
“She looks good, doesn’t she, Giles?” Willow asked, turning around again. “I mean, happy.”
“She does,” he agreed with a nod and leaned over Willow, nodding toward the computer. “Tell her…” he paused, as if unsure what to say. “Tell her Merry Christmas.”
Willow gave Giles a knowing grin, as if she realized there was more he wanted to say, but couldn’t quite pin it down in words. She began to type again as Giles rose and took Becca by the elbow.
“Let’s freshen up that wine,” he told her, nodding her toward the kitchen.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Same time
“Tis the Season…whatever that means,” Faith told the group surrounding her. “And while we’re at it, what’s a Yule anyway?” Faith asked Robin, Kennedy and Vi, who stood around in a small circle looking in the fireplace. Rowena was standing at the punch bowl and glanced over at them as they all gave a collective shrug.
“Wiccan Solar Festival,” she told them as she filled her glass. “Happens tonight on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.”
“Okay,” Faith nodded, “But why the log? Why not a bush or a scrub?”
“Hmm,” Rowena wondered out loud.
“Ms. Big Brain doesn’t have all the answers,” Kennedy jabbed.
“No, and I’m not above asking someone who might,” she retorted before calling over her shoulder, “Willow?”
The witch was just closing her laptop and walked over to the group. “What’s up?”
“What’s the deal?” Faith asked before Rowena could and nodded to the glowing fireplace. “Why burn a log for Yule?”
“Oh, well this isn’t a genuine Yule log, it’s more symbolic but, ahh…Let’s see, at Beltaine, which is commonly called May Day, we erect a pole for that celebration a-and it’s a time we celebrate fertility, rebirth, re-growth, spring-y type stuff. Well, at Winter Solstice, we burn the old May Day pole as the Yule log in celebration.”
“Ohhh,” Faith nodded in understanding, “so it’s kinda like stuff dies, or in this case, gets burned, in the winter, and in the spring stuff comes back to life?”
“Yeah, kinda,” Willow nodded.
“See, Brat?” Faith said, slapping her on the shoulder with the back of her hand. “This Wiccan stuff ain’t so hard to understand. Hell, if I can get it then I’m sure you could.”
“I never said I couldn’t. It’s just not my thing, is all.” Kennedy shrugged. “I’m gonna get a drink. Anybody want anything?” she added.
Faith gave Willow a compassionate look and got a melancholy grin in return. Faith bit her lip and shook her head slightly.
“Faith?” a voice said, breaking her attention.
She turned to see Kennedy waiting for an answer to the refreshment question.
“No thanks,” she told her, holding up her cup. “I’m good.”
Faith and Willow both watched Kennedy walk away.
Watchers Council – Library – Morning
“Well I see we didn’t burn down your place last night,” Willow remarked as Giles walked in. “A-And if so, at least you and your clothes are intact.”
“How superstitious are you?” Giles asked.
Willow shook her head as if trying to catch what she missed in their conversation. “Uh, not so much, why?” she finally answered.
“Well…the log went out last night and from what Rowena told me it’s bad luck if that happens before daylight,” Giles remarked, unsure of what Willow might say.
“Giles,” Willow sighed. “We live in a constant state of bad luck. We actively seek bad luck. We are bad luck.”
Giles raised his eyebrows. “You have a point,” he admitted.
“And a darn good one. We’re doomed. We all know this, so the sooner you get on board, the better you’ll feel.”
Giles gave her a small grin and looked at the table covered in papers. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Another missing Santa. Well, one missing and one not missing actually. One was killed.”
Willow nodded. “According to the police report, disemboweled to be exact.”
“Oh my,” Giles muttered.
“Yeah, it’s not quite hehe funny anymore, and I’m wondering if this isn’t something demony.”
“Why do you suspect supernatural means?”
“Well, when I started reading the report this morning, I remembered a story Anya told us one year. She said Santa did exist, but he wasn’t named Santa and he didn’t bring presents to children. I’ll give you three guesses what he did instead.”
“Disemboweled them?” Giles asked.
Willow put her finger on her nose. “And although this was a man and not a child, I’m still trying to research more about Anya’s demon.”
“A few things.” Willow nodded. “One, he doesn’t live at the North Pole anymore, or even in our world. He was sent to another dimension by a tribe of Native Americans in the early 1800s. It didn’t reference which tribe in particular, but it seems they did a ritual that sent him, along with a group of his followers, from this world.”
“According to the sketch…he looks like Santa. Red coat; pants, trimmed with fur. It’s really kinda creepy, if you ask me. Because this guy, this demon, whatever, he was around before the Santa myth became popular in the 1800s. So that means…”
“He could have very well started the legend of Santa Claus.”
“Yeah and Claus is a homonym…follow me – Santa Claus, claws, shredding of internal organs – nasty stuff. I mean, I know that Santa is the Americanized version of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, but from what I’ve been reading so far, we might have a connection here between Anya’s demon and what’s happening now.”
Bonnie’s Office – Afternoon
“Any luck?” she asked the demons that had assembled around the rectangular table.
“No ma’am,” one of them said.
Bonnie tossed a newspaper on the table. “Well, someone was out and about last night,” she said as she pointed to a headline that read, ‘Santa Volunteer Murdered.’ “And Santra is locked up nice and tight. It’s obvious that, since his helpers can’t find him, they’re getting frustrated and trying to carry on his work without him.”
“It may be unrelated,” another one of them posed.
“This Santa was found not more than two miles from Santra’s location. They’re closing in, boys, so I suggest you double your efforts to find them and find them fast,” she ordered.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he told her.
“The closer we get to Christmas, the more powerful they’ll become – all of them,” Bonnie warned. “That curse binds them all together. So that means that by Boxing Day all of Cleveland might be dead, including you. Understood?”
“We’ll have them tonight,” the demon insisted.
“Now that’s what I like to hear,” Bonnie nodded with a grin.
Elves’ Cavern – Afternoon
A demon elf, which was slightly taller than the two at either side of him, walked past the cages of four captured men. His squared shoulders and confident demeanor gave him the appearance of a leader.
“You realize our time grows short?” he said.
“I do, but we’ve been looking everywhere. He’s close, sir. We can feel it – all of us. But we must do the ritual soon with Santra if we’re to stay in this dimension. Are you certain that none of these men are worthy enough? We could –”
“I told you, we will continue our search until the final hour; only then will we name a replacement suitable to the task.”
“But what if we do and…”
“And what? Santra returns?”
The fellow elf nodded quickly. “He would be quite enraged, sir.”
“Our sacrifice yesterday gave us enough power to sustain our time on this plane for now. We’ll find him. And if not,” he said, stopping in front of Fred’s cage. “We’ll name a worthy heir.”
“And what of these others?” he said as he motioned to the other cages.
“They’ll make a nice Christmas dinner.”
Watchers Council – Rowena’s Quarters – Early Evening
Rowena put the finishing touches on her hair and examined it in the mirror, looking at it from different angles, when a knock at the door got her attention. She left the bathroom, going to the living room. When she opened the door, she saw Willow standing there.
“Oh hey,” she said before Willow could speak, pulling her inside. “So what do you think? Straight or curly tonight?”
“What?” Willow asked.
“The hair,” she pointed. “Should I leave it straight or rewash it for that natural curl which, believe it or not, isn’t as wonderful as all straight haired people think?”
“Uh, straight’s good but uh, curly too, I guess,” Willow answered absently. “Look, I need to ask you for a favor.”
“Sure,” Rowena remarked solemnly upon seeing how distracted Willow looked.
“If you say no, that’s okay but it would just be easier for everyone, I think, if you could pass along a message tonight at the party.”
“What message? You’re not going to the hall?”
Willow shook her head and walked back to the door, closing it before returning to Rowena.
Seeing the seriousness on her face and the onset of tears, Rowena asked, “Willow, what’s wrong?”
The Wiccan began to cry and Rowena’s eyes went wide. “Oh, hey,” she said softly, pulling her into a hug and rubbing her back. “We’ll start slow and work our way from there, okay?”
Cleveland Lights Festival – Early Evening
“How warm is it tonight?” Giles asked Robin as they walked side by side. Becca and Faith walked a few paces behind them, chatting.
“Sixty degrees, from what I heard. So much for a White Christmas this year,” he shrugged.
“Yes, Willow was looking forward to it too.”
“I thought she hated the cold.”
“Well,” Giles explained with a grin, “the conditions were, and I quote, ‘a White Christmas which could melt away the next day and stay gone until next year’.”
Robin laughed quietly. “I do have to say, she’s been holding up better than I expected. When I first moved to California, I hated the heat, so she’s got my sympathy.”
Becca and Faith continued to stroll behind the two men in front of them.
“I hope you don’t mind the double date,” Becca said sincerely.
“Not at all,” Faith told her. “Never did one before…well, I might have at some point if I hadn’t dropped out.”
“You didn’t finish school?” Becca asked.
“Nah, got too hectic. I’m an ex-con that didn’t finish high school,” she explained casually. “After I got called – hold on, how much did Giles explain to you already?”
“Buffy was the Chosen One. She died. Got brought back to life and the world then had two slayers until Willow’s recent spell.”
Faith paused. “Yep, that’s it in a nutshell. Anyway, I spent quite a few years training but when I got called, a vamp killed my watcher and came after me. I left Boston for Sunnydale, since my watcher mentioned another slayer out there. School wasn’t important to begin with and after that…it mattered even less. It’s hard to worry about exams when you’re running for your life.”
“I can see that…did you ever think of going back? Not passing judgment here, just curious.” Becca added.
Faith gave a reluctant grin. “Actually, we got a continuing ed book in the mail last month. I swiped it when no one was looking but…I don’t really have time, and what good is a GED really? That’s what they call it right? A GED?”
“Yes, a general education degree,” Becca replied.
“Right, so what do I need with general education? Not like I’m gonna go to college or anything. This is my life,” she said, waving her hand. “I like it, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t see the point in goin’ back to school. Not really.”
“Well,” Becca started, somewhat reluctantly, “something made you take that brochure.”
Faith considered it a moment. “Yeah…Robin’s like this big brain – used to be a high school principal and here he is with me. I mean he loves me for me and hasn’t pushed me at all, but…”
“You think he wants you to go back?”
“No, it’s not that,” Faith answered. “I guess I thought about doing it for him. You know, his girlfriend wouldn’t be a drop out anymore? But like I said…it’s kinda stupid since I already have like, a ‘profession’.”
Becca turned to Faith with a thoughtful expression.
“What?” Faith asked with a nervous grin.
“Oh, nothing, I think you’re right. If you’d just be doing it for him then no, you shouldn’t. It’s not easy getting back into the study game if your heart’s not in it. But if you really wanted it, a sense of completion, then take the chance. You’ll have something in the end that’s meaningful to you first and foremost.”
Faith gave a small snort. “Want, take, have,” she muttered.
“Umm, yeah, essentially.”
Faith considered the words a moment longer and began to grin.
Further ahead Giles looked a bit nervous as he turned to Robin.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Well, Becca actually. I’ve been out of the dating game for a while now, and I seem to be having trouble…” Giles paused as if trying to say his words correctly.
“Performing?” Robin guessed.
“Perform- no!” Giles exclaimed, trying to keep his voice down.
“They make drugs now, you know?” Robin teased upon noting how flustered Giles had become.
“I don’t need any drugs, thank you very much,” Giles answered indignantly. “I do just fine I’ll have you know, bloody exceptional actually! That’s not the issue.”
“Well, what is it then?”
“I enjoy Becca’s company immensely. She’s a very smart and beautiful woman.”
“Duly noted. So what’s the problem?” Robin asked.
“Well, I’ve had opportunities to kiss this woman, but I…I find myself holding back. I don’t want to be too forward, but I don’t want to ask because that might not be courageous enough for her, so…I’m waiting. For what exactly, I’m not sure.”
“Well, you could just walk up and say, ‘Come here, baby’ and plant a big wet one on her.”
“Well, thank you Cyrano,” Giles sighed.
Robin laughed softly. “No, seriously, it’s obvious you like her. And I can say that after watching her tonight the feeling is quite mutual. So when it’s right, you’ll know. Be bold, and the next time the chance presents itself, take it. I don’t think you’ll offend her.”
Giles nodded his agreement. From behind, Faith and Becca continued to walk along, talking.
“Well, the classes haven’t started yet,” Faith mentioned. “When I called they said based on my time I put in already I could finish in May.”
“You called? But you haven’t given it any serious thought?” Becca teased.
Faith had to smile. “Okay, maybe it was more than an idea,” she admitted. “I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’m a huge scholar,” Becca told her, “but I know a few things about literature should you decide to sign up. I’d lend a hand if you ever needed it.”
Faith pursed her lips and nodded. “Cool, thanks.”
Faith touched Becca’s arm for a moment. “Wait here a sec,” she told her. With that, she dashed ahead and worked her way under Robin’s arm.
“Boy. it’s freezing out here,” she joked. “Wanna go over there and get some hot chocolate to warm everyone up?” she asked, pointing toward a vendor stand.
“Sure, Babe,” he answered. “You want some, Giles?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Okay,” Faith replied. “Oh, and although you didn’t ask my opinion, she’s a keeper,” she said, nodding her head toward Becca. “So you better not screw it up,” she warned Giles with a poke to his chest, which he immediately rubbed. Pulling Robin along with her, Faith said, “Let’s go get those drinks, Ace.”
Giles grinned and walked toward Becca.
“What did you say to her?” he asked.
“That’s private, confidential girl talk. I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” she answered with a grin. “Where are they off to?”
“Getting cocoa,” Giles answered.
“Well, yes, it is a winter wonderland out here,” she jibbed. “I think I just saw a woman in shorts walk by ten minutes ago.”
Giles lightly chuckled before Becca turned to look at one of the displays.
“Over the ground lies a mantle of white,” she began to sing. “A heaven of diamonds shines down through the night. Two hearts a thrillin’ in spite of the chill in the weather…”
She trailed off and waited a moment, hoping Giles would pick up the rest of it. A few seconds later the tenor voice behind her began to sing. “Love knows no season. Love knows no clime. Romance can blossom any ole time. Here, in the open, we’re walkin and hopin together…”
Becca closed her eyes and grinned. She felt Giles come behind her, putting his hands on her upper arms. “Willow was right. You do have a great voice,” she complimented.
“Why thank you,” he remarked, flattered.
He leaned over and she turned toward him, their faces mere inches apart. Giles began to close the distance between them when a noise startled both of them, shooting their heads in the direction of the sound.
“Here you go!”
Faith stood by with two cups thrust toward them. Robin looked at Giles with sincere apology, but the Watcher simply grinned with a slight nod in his direction. With each partner holding hands, the two pairs continued to walk on.
After a few moments, Faith suddenly stopped and started to look around the crowd.
“What’s wrong, Babe?” Robin asked.
Noticing her shift in demeanor, Giles and Becca moved closer, too.
“Vampires?” Giles asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Faith answered. “But something is out here,” she added cryptically, scanning the sightseers. She turned her head and watched five warmly bundled children running into a wooded area of the park.
“Over there,” Faith nodded and began to follow.
The rest of the group tagged along, following them deeper into the thick woods. They watched from afar as the children moved down an embankment. One of them lost his cap and he turned around to pick it up. They all moved slightly back behind some shrubbery yet still observed. That was when Faith saw the face.
Picking up the cap quickly he raced to catch up to the others.
“Okay, maybe I had too much eggnog before I left the house but…was that an elf we just saw going into the woods?”
“Well, don’t elves live in trees and make cookies,” Robin quipped.
“Oh, that was a sad one, Ace. I’m gonna forget you even said that,” Faith said as she dialed her cellphone. “Hey Vi. Faith. I need you and Rona to come down to the city park…No, I’m not bored to the point that I’ll make you run laps again! Something odd’s goin’ down and I might need back up…I’ll have Giles and Becca wait for you guys next to a huge display that looks like the nativity. You can’t miss it…Cool. Thanks!”
Ginoette’s Restaurant – Same Time
Willow and Kennedy sat at a table, both looking at the menu. Willow closed hers and looked at Kennedy as the brunette continued to examine the menu.
“Hmm,” Kennedy hummed. “The pesto or the chicken? Think I’ll go with the pesto,” she said, closing her menu. She looked up to see a pained expression on Willow’s face and she scrunched her eyebrows. She opened her mouth to ask about Willow’s unhappy mood when Willow spoke.
“I wanna break up.”
End of Act Three