PART #: Part 8/12
ALL DISCLAIMERS etc in Part 1
My last day in the office again but this time I don't know how long it will be before I return. I checked my follow up again before sending it to copy, then I read and reread the freelance contract I had been given for my mythology column and took it to lunch with the 'boys' and had Bruce read over it before I signed it. I'm impressed with the amount I would receive for each printed column. The second column came more easily this time and by the end of the day both the first and second columns were given final approval by Perry and the Gotham editor.
The Wayne private jet flew me and Willow back to Sunnydale, escorted by the charming Misters Grayson and Drake who returned to Metropolis later the same day.
Time passed, as it does, and Christmas was upon within days and Christmas in Sunnydale was quiet for once... unless you were near my house on Revello Drive. Mum, Giles, Xander, Anya and Spike had covered the house with lights, and the front lawn with decorations. It was a beautiful sight as we drove up the street the night Willow and I returned from the airport.
Everyone was there Christmas day including Giles and the LA contingent, who had made the drive to Sunnydale the night before. As a result of our two vampiric houseguests, all of the windows were covered tightly against any sunlight.
We were just toasting a successful year of survival when the doorbell rang. I jogged to answer it. "I'll get it... Oh, hey Kyle." Willow squealed and ran from the dining room to the doorway.
"Well that's the last of Willow's coherence for the evening," Giles said dryly.
I chuckled and turned away to answered the ringing phone and trying to ignore the kissing couple in the hallway. "Hello? ...Hello you. How is Christmas in Gotham..?" I ignored Giles loud statement about my lack of participation in the rest of the evening's proceedings now that the debonair Mr. Grayson was on the phone. "We sure are having fun. This place is buzzing with people... Yes Kyle made it... Uh huh... Oh just a moment. I have to get the door... Before I go you wanted to say what?"
I opened the door.
"Merry Christmas," he grinned at me from the doorway, his mobile phone in his hand.
"But..." I said, completely bewildered, staring from him to the phone and then at Bruce.
"Alfred and Babs convinced Bruce, so here we are," Dick shrugged. "And Tim's dad is still away so he's here to enjoy your sisters company."
"Shut up Dick," Tim grumbled.
"Come in. Welcome! Where is Alfred?" I asked, ushering the men inside, hugging them each as they passed me.
"Here Miss," Alfred smiled. I hugged him too as he entered the house. Yay me. I surprised Alfred.
"Welcome. Mum! Mr Wayne's here!"
"Just in time to open presents," she smiled.
"Hey Tim." I suspect Dawn ran from the kitchen to say that.
"Well that's intelligent conversation," Spike said.
"Don't start Spike," I growled. "Everyone in the lounge room. Go. Willow stop trying to remove Kyle's tonsils with your tongue and let the man breathe.
Kyle, Bruce, Dick, Tim and Alfred each unpacked a medium sized bag of gifts and placed them under the tree before my mother put on her silly Mrs. Claus hat and began handing out the gifts.
There were Xander's usual prank gifts with Tim and Dick each added to the unfortunate group of recipients this year; Willow's thoughtful gifts laced with a little Wicca magic; my usual jewellery and voucher gifts; Anya's gifts that Xander probably told her to buy–they were thoughtful and Anya still hadn't grasped the concept of Christmas gift giving; Giles' practical gifts and mom's 'mom' type gifts. Dawn took great pride in telling everyone that she had saved hard to buy the gifts she gave and that though they were small she'd taken time choosing them carefully.
Bruce chuckled over the gold plated, day-of-the-week money clips she gave him. "Buffy said you had lots of money and I figured you probably need as much help as possible keeping track of it," she explained with a laugh. Even Alfred congratulated her on a well-considered choice.
Next were the gifts from our visitors. A wall hanging for mom from Kyle, a journal with a Kyle Rayner original cover for me, a caricature of Anya and Xander for Anya and Xander, a ring to match her necklace for Willow, 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' for Spike, a Jr. Bat Brigade certificate for Tim–which was received with a glare and a chuckle, 'Freud's Guide to Better Relationships' for Dick, and a book titled 'The Scribblings of a JLA wannabe' for Bruce–with drawings of the JLA superheroes both flattering and fanciful. Kyle took the gift for Alfred from mom and handed it reverently to the older gentleman. It was a framed lifetime achievement award for raising Bruce and Dick, which brought a gentle tear to Alfred's eye as he thanked the young artist.
"We... ah... we bought these collectively cause I hadn't met all of you when we went shopping," Bruce said quietly as mom handed out the gifts from the Gothamites. A hand crafted, leather Carpenter's belt for Xander, for Anya were books on the evils of men–she squealed in delight–and a Little Miss Chatterbox t-shirt, for mom there were an assortment of 'aids to parenting' like earplugs and an eyemask, and a letter from Alfred in response to which mom sighed and said, "They don't change? At all?" Alfred solemnly shook his head 'no'. She chuckled. For Spike were a matching cigarette case and lighter, and a leaflet advising the evils of smoking. For Giles they had found some ancient book that he was speechless over having. For Willow was a leather bound book bearing the legend 'Book of Shadows' with hundreds of blank pages. And for me was a large spotted hatbox that was placed in front of me. On the tag, under my name, it read 'Do not shake'.
"I checked that it was ok with your mother... just thought I'd let you know."
I looked at the box and watched in amazement as it moved and seemed to squirm. I looked at Bruce then at the box again before reaching out to take the lid off. The box tipped over onto its side and out tumbled a little black and white spotted ball. The ball stopped rolling and lay on the floor a moment. The puppy sat up and looked around before bounding over to me.
"You'll have to move back here or find somewhere to live that will let you have a puppy Buffy for the rest of your college education," Mum said.
"Uh huh," I answered absently without really registering what she'd said.
"It needs a name," Dick said ruffling my hair.
I scowled up at him and smoothed my hair before grinning up at him. "How about Robin the First?"
He scowled at me this time though everyone laughed, whether they fully understood the joke or not.
"It's my fault that you need to find somewhere new to live Buffy. I'd be happy to help you in anyway I can. Money, furniture, college transfer to Gotham..."
I giggled. "I'm nearly finished Bruce. It'd be silly to move now, but thank you. I may have to take you up on the offer... though probably not. I'm still getting money from The Daily Planet."
"That's right. How is the column going?" Bruce asked.
"Really well actually. There's been quite a lot of public response and requests. Perry has given me a second column in the Thursday edition just to answer questions."
"So more income," Tim said.
"Yeah. And I'm really enjoying it. I've even learned to research for myself," I grinned. Willow and Giles smiled at me as well.
"We're very proud of her progress," Giles said proudly.
"You're just glad you don't have to do it on your own anymore."
Giles glowered at Xander but chose not to actually respond.
"I'll help you with furniture and stuff Buffy. I'll make you some stuff. Bookshelves, tables..."
"Thanks Xand-man, but I need to find an apartment first and find someone to move in with me..." I looked hopefully at Willow who nodded and grinned. "Ok so all I have to do now is find the apartment."
"Which I will be glad to help with," Bruce said again.
"Um..." Willow said looking at Tim and Spike in the kitchen doorway. "You guys are standing under the mistletoe.
Spike grinned at Tim who just sighed before grabbing Spike and kissing him on the lips. "Somebody get me some Listerine please?" Time whimpered as he stepped away from Spike and the mistletoe'd doorway.
Spike just stared in astonishment at Tim as Dawn ran upstairs to get the requested item handing it to a disgusted Tim while the rest of us rolled about laughing except my mum who was too surprised to laugh, Alfred who I've never seen abandon himself to a good belly laugh, and Bruce who did at least chuckle.
As we cleared away the wrapping paper and tidied the piles of presents Dick quietly handed me a smallish, brightly wrapped box. I carefully pulled the paper off and opened the box.
"Well I can't be outdone by an artist," he chuckled as I stared into the jewellery box. Inside the box was a matching set of sterling silver jewellery, bearing sapphires the same blue that defies description as the colour of Dick's eyes. On the necklace was a cross, the sapphire in it's centre, the earrings and ring seemed to be small sapphire crosses held to the ring or earring post by fine silver wires that wove delicately around them and the jewellery pieces.
I sighed and looked up at him. "It's beautiful, really. Thank you. Will you help me put them on?" He slid the ring onto my right hand index finger. As he latched the necklace I gazed at the ring on my finger. "It looks too delicate..."
"It won't break. I made that part of the design specification. I want you to be able to wear them, and cause damage at the same time," he winked. "The cross on your finger ought to leave at least a small burn mark when you hit."
I ignored Angel's sigh from the doorway as Dick and I kissed. "Merry Christmas Dick Grayson."
"Will you two leave each other alone already? If you can't will you at least tell me where a bucket is? I may need to heave."
I flipped Spike off as I walked past him.
I've noticed today that I have nothing left to talk to Angel about in a social situation. I don't think I ever had anything to say to Cordelia and Wesley just kinda creeps me out and that Gunn guy is just a little bit too much like Bruce when he is in full Bat-mode and that makes me want to tease him so I just kept quiet. Not that I was rude or anything. I just had nothing to say and our lives have all taken a different path now. We aren't the people we were in High School.
After the tidy-up was complete, the LA investigators said their farewells to go back to LA and after we saw them safely to the end of the street we went back inside and settled in to watch 'It's a Wonderful Life'. I'll admit that we aren't the most sympathetic audience and turned it off in favour of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and giggled as Xander did the Snoopy dance.
In the very early hours of Boxing Day Giles, Spike, Xander and Anya went home; Kyle, Bruce, Dick, Tim and Alfred went to their hotel. Willow's parents were out of town so she was staying with us and then coming with me to Gotham late Boxing Day evening for a New Years in Gotham City.
Adding a few new things to my bags the next morning, like puppy and puppy stuff that mom and Bruce had bought as Christmas presents for Robin the First, we made our trip to the airport. It was becoming a familiar journey.