Merry Merry Dreaming

by Ducks

TIMELINE: Christmas 2000
SPOILERS: Not a one.
SYNOPSIS: Mostly plotless. B/A celebrate Christmas in The Dreaming.
RATING: PG -- reference some having of Perfect Happiness. ;)
DEDICATION: To all my beloved friends and readers -- you guys are the very best! :)

 

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Merry Merry Dreaming
by Ducks

When Angel opened his eyes, he found the Dreaming decorated like...

Well, like a dream, frankly.

Buffy had obviously been asleep for a while, and hard at work while she waited for him. It had taken her a bit to learn the mechanics of Lucid Dreaming: how to manipulate the astral space they created together, honing its details, building little scenes of romantic perfection. But once she got a hang of it, she didn’t seem to want to stop. First had been her little strip show. He couldn't help but grin a little at that particular memory. Then, she’d cooked him a four-course meal for a late Thanksgiving... and a really good one, to his surprise.

Now this.

Angel turned slowly, taking in every careful detail of the cabin’s interior. For a moment, he thought maybe he had fallen into a holiday card. The fireplace crackled cheerily, and the first thing that caught his eye were the matching stockings bearing their names hanging on the mantel. The sight immediately brought tears to his eyes... they were bright red and fluffy, obviously hand made, the white fur around the cuffs embroidered delicately... his, "Angel", in deep blue, hers, a loopy "Buffy" in mauve. To see their names... these tiny symbols of normalcy... hanging side by side like that, as if they’d spent every Christmas together, forever... if his heart wasn’t already dead, it might have broken with the joy of it.

That was only the beginning of her loving endeavors. The rest of the room was carefully detailed, the mantel lined with garland, and topped with live evergreen boughs, with a Yule Log bearing 3 large gold candles in its center. In fact, the whole room was lit by soft golden light -- hundreds of giant pillar candles that scented the air with cinnamon and pine. More garland edged the cabin’s rafters, casting the room in silver and gold sparkles, like a forest of precious metal. The metallic garland was twisted together with holly, and Bells, angel’s, little snowmen and Santa’s stood on nearly every surface, and Christmas carols-- traditional Gaelic Christmas carols-- played softly in the background.

Beautiful. Absolutely perfect. He smiled and sighed softly as he fingered the stocking that bore her name. She’d already started a fire, and the room was toasty warm.

But empty. Where was she?

"DAMN IT!" Her cursing echoed from the kitchen, followed closely by a cloud of fragrant smoke. Angel dashed through the archway.

He was torn once more between bursting into tears, and exploding with joyous laughter at this vision. Buffy bent over the stove, wearing a Santa hat, scowling at a pan full of horribly burned gingerbread people. She felt his arrival and looked up, making his heart leap to see the way her eyes lit, and a bright smile quickly replaced her angry frown. She tossed the pan on the stove, yanked off the oven mitt, and jumped into his arms.

Angel picked her up and crushed her close, kissing her deeply. Her lips were warm and sweet, coated in sugar and frosting. He held her off the floor and tasted her slowly, slipping his tongue with aching tenderness inside... the sugar wasn’t nearly as sweet as the natural taste of her mouth.

She pulled away first. "Hi," she chirped, "I burnt the gingerbread men."

He gave her a huge smile and set her on her feet. "So I smell."

Buffy whacked him in the arm. "Hey! I'm new to this whole astral baking thing!"

"You know, Buffy... you had to have wanted them burned..." he reminded her.

She perched her little hands on her hips, pouting, and cocked her head to the side so the bell on her Santa hat tinkled. "Realism, remember? And I really don't know how to bake!"

Angel laughed, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Of course. How could I forget?"

She stood where she was, her brow furrowed, as she took a few moments to inspect him. They'd made a deal some time ago -- their first ten or twenty minutes together were for worry, discussing their crappy week, whining and grousing about the monster-of-the-moment or the vamp that got away -- and then all talk of duty was to stop. Unless one or the other of them really needed to work something through, the Dreaming was strictly reserved for Buffy/Angel fantasy time.

So she took quick stock of his physical condition, and rejoiced to find him flawless -- as usual. She smiled.

"Nog?"

"Did you burn it?" Angel teased.

Buffy pouted.

He reached out to brush her cheek. "I'd love some. Don't spare the brandy."

She pulled a big crystal pitcher of creamy liquid out of the refrigerator, grabbed the container of cinnamon sticks and two glasses off the counter, and let him to the living room.

They sat on the black velvet, overstuffed couch (which he noticed was a new addition), and settle back with their drinks. Angel sighed deeply, letting the cozy golden warmth of the room and her presence wash all the tension of the past week away.

"This is really beautiful, Buffy. You've outdone yourself."

She settled against his chest. "It's all for you. I want this Christmas to be perfect."

He softly kissed the top of her head, inhaling her sweet scent, edged with the trace aromas of baking. "How about we go out and get a tree?" he suggested, noticing that was the only detail she hadn't attended to.

"Mm. I was waiting for you to do that. I think I know the perfect one." She glanced at her watch. "We should go soon so we can be back in time..." Catching herself, she hesitated.

"In time for what?" Angel asked -- after all, there was no time, here. Just the happy infinity of comfort. Home.

Buffy got up, but didn't meet his eye. "Turkey. It'll be done at 11:30. I don't want that to burn, too."

Angel rose beside her and tilted her chin up with a fingertip. "What are you planning, Summers?"

She couldn't hide her sneaky grin. "You'll see." Pulling away, she marched across the room and down the hall, starting to yank on the 20 layers of clothing she always required up here.

He grinned. Buffy and her realism -- it made the Dreaming a truly beautiful place to be.

The night was cool enough to see her breath, but not uncomfortably bitter. The sky was clear, the stars bright over the mountains as they loaded the router and ropes on to the large toboggan Angel conjured in the shed. Once it was packed, Buffy jumped on top of the pile of materials and pulled the packing blanket over her legs.

"Giddyup, Mule! Yah!" she bellowed, yanking on the heavy rope he held.

Angel gave her a half-hearted glare over his shoulder. "Something wrong with your legs, Slayer?"

She blinked innocently up at him. "Why walk when you have a perfectly good pack-vampire?"

There was no holding back his laughter. "Fine then. But you'll have to walk on the way home."

She weighed next to nothing, of course, and Angel made quick work of the half-mile walk into the forest where the trees were thickest. Buffy alternated between directing him toward the tree she'd been dreaming about, and singing "I'm Dreaming of A White Christmas" in her warbly, heartwarmingly off-key soprano.

Angel smiled as he trudged through the snow, his heart expanding to listen to her happy tune. The days they spent here made it all worthwhile, and he carried the memories around with him to run over when his tasks seemed too daunting to face. Always squarely in the front of his mind as he swung sword or axe, plunged stake, crawled, aching into his lonely bed, or tended his sometimes grievous wounds:

Someday, every night would be a dream like this... without sleeping.

"Angel, that's it!" Buffy exclaimed, leaping off the sled and bounding up over a deep snowbank toward a lush copse of evergreens.

He followed with the router and gunnysack, taking a moment to inspect her choice.

It was, of course, perfect. Young, hearty, and thick, its scent permeating the cold night air all around them. It stood a good foot taller than he, all its foliage dense and symmetrical, with strong branches more than sturdy enough for hanging even the largest of ornaments.

Angel carefully dug up the tree, painstakingly pulling up its entire root system and placing it in the bag, and leaving the ground open for replanting later. It wasn't really necessary, considering the tree was astral, but like Buffy said--realism was the key. He thanked the tree with an ancient Celtic prayer, and she scooted over to help him haul it onto the sled.

A soft snow began to fall as they walked back to the cabin hand-in-hand, Angel holding the toboggan reins over one shoulder. They sang a rousing rendition of "Let it Snow" as they marched along.

When the tree was up and the decorating finished, the tree looked like something out of Fairyland. Angel strung every inch of the trunk and inner branches with twinkling lights, while Buffy hung boxes upon boxes of shining bells, balls, and stars from its boughs. For a finishing touch, she produced an exquisite Victorian silver angel, which he lifted her from the floor to perch on the top.

After, they stood wrapped in one another's arms, gazing at their creation.

"It's beautiful," Buffy whispered reverently.

Angel pulled her close, burying his nose in her hair. "You're beautiful."

She turned slowly in his arms and gave him a smile of such tranquillity, he completely forgot to breathe. She combed her hands gently through the back of his hair, and drew him down for a long, lingering, brandy-tinged kiss.

A loud knock on the cabin door interrupted their embrace. Angel's head shot up, immediately tense -- who would dare to touch them, here?

"Yay! Your surprise is here!" Buffy cried, clapping, and skipped away down the hall.

Angel followed, confused, until she threw open the door.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS!" trumpeted the seemingly huge crowd on the porch.

Angel gaped. Everybody was there, arms laden with gifts, smiling happily. Giles and Joyce, Xander and Anya, Cordy and Wesley, Gunn, Willow, Oz and Tara, Dawn... and even Spike.

They crowded into the hallway with words of greeting, hugs, kisses and handshakes for Buffy and Angel. He was too flabbergasted by the unexpected display to do anything but return the sentiments as best he could.

As the rest of the family followed Buffy to the living room, Angel and Spike stood eye to eye, unmoving in the doorway.

"I'm not gonna kiss you, ya buggerin' git. So just invite me in already and let me at the brandy," the blonde vampire sniped.

Angel stared at him. Most pointedly, at the meticulously wrapped gift in his pale hands.

"Don't get your knickers in a bunch. It's for the Slayer," he explained.

The elder vampire blinked at his Childe. "Uh... come... in?"

Spike pushed past him. "Good thing invites don't have to be enthusiastic."

The revelry unfolded like a warm blanket over the next few hours. More laughter and happiness than Angel ever thought he'd seen among these people. Buffy re-donned her Santa hat, and handed out gifts. It being the Dreaming, each person present received exactly what they most wanted. They drank eggnog and munched the unburned cookies, singing and chatting about their lives, and were just generally... together.

He'd never had a real family Christmas before, not even when he was alive. It all felt unreal and so pleasantly bizarre, and Angel unwrapped all his beautiful, thoughtful presents overcome by the sensation that he was having the sweetest dream ever.

Which of course, he was. He looked around at each familiar face--some beloved, some not so much so--and wondered if they were really here, or if Buffy had somehow conjured them for him.

She snuggled up next to him on the couch, and answered his unspoken question. "Everybody got an early Christmas present from me -- a dash of Corinthian Powder, and long, rambling instructions on how and when to use it."

Angel's smile materialized from somewhere deep in his soul, and he wrapped his most precious gift tightly in his arms. "Thank you, Buffy. This is..."

She glanced up at him, her eyes wide and wet. "The best Christmas ever?"

He kissed the tip of her nose, and whispered, "The very best."

"Hey! No sucky-facey, you two!" Xander called out, lining up a handful of shot glasses on the table, "We're about to start playing quarters!"

The night went by like a softly flowing river, and finally, some of the guests began to yawn. Anya complained about having to work in the morning. Cordelia wondered aloud if dream brandy could give her a hangover. Dawn slept peacefully on Giles' lap. Spike was passed out on the table with his head in his arms, an empty bottle of port dangling from one hand.

Giles rose, setting Dawn down on her feet. "We should go and leave the two of your to your... celebrations."

Buffy and Angel got up, as did the rest of the gang. Angel yanked Spike out of his chair and braced his Childe's weight against him-- something he hadn't done in a hundred years or more. It felt strange... and nice, in a bizarre, twisted sort of way. After all, he was the only being here related to him by blood.

"Y'know you're a soddin' poncer," the younger vampire slurred, "Not fit to shine the Slayer's dainty shoes."

Angel was far too full of sentimental joy to let the goading do anything but make him smile. "You know you're not really drunk."

Spike raised his head and winked at his Sire. "Blondie said go for realism."

Angel dropkicked him out the front door.

Buffy joined him, tucking herself under his arm, and they waved as their family faded into the night, back to their own happy dreams.

He gazed down at her. She looked up at him. No words were spoken, he simply swept her up into his arms and carried her back inside, kicking the door shut behind them.

They made slow, tender love under the twinkling lights of their Christmas tree, among the shining litter of paper and ribbons that blanketed the floor. Lazy, sated, and completely enraptured by one another and the magick of the night, they cuddled together in front of the fire.

"Angel..." Buffy murmured, tracing languid patterns over the smooth skin of his chest.

"Mm?" He softly kissed her damp brow.

"I haven't given you your real present yet."

He sighed deeply, a whisper of contentment. "I don't need anything else. Ever."

"Not even for me to really come see you on Monday?"

Angel pulled away to look down at her with surprise, and however much he tried not to admit it, yet more joy.

"Really?"

Her smile was peaceful. Beatific. Her eyes glowed with love as she nodded. "Really. I mean... if it's okay. It won't be like this, but..."

He wrapped her tightly in his arms. "It'll be perfect. This time, I'll bake, okay?"

She laughed and snuggled closer. "Deal."

"I love you, Buffy. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Angel."

The End. *sigh*

Merry Merry and Happy Happy to all my beloved Shippers! J