Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Summary: Just because it's Christmas for the Project Paranormal team
doesn't mean that they get a break. Join our trio in their trek to London
to investigate a haunted flat and a case that makes Giles' blood race in more
ways than one.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
yourself a merry little Christmas
your heart be light
now on our troubles will be out of sight
yourself a merry little Christmas,
the Yule-tide gay,
now on, our troubles will be miles away.
we are as in olden days,
golden days of yore.
friends who are dear to us
near to us once more.
all will be together,
the Fates allow
a shining star upon the highest bough.
have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
lyricist for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was Ralph Blane and the
haunting music was composed by Hugh Martin.
"Can you help me?"
Giles stared at the woman who sat before
him. He was used to talking to clients
by phone; not many showed up at his door.
She appeared to be in her early forties, and impeccably dressed in a
khaki colored pantsuit that hung splendidly on her curves. Not a hair, light brown and quite shiny as
it was, out of place. Sparkling hazel eyes as well. Beauty wasn't a word Giles used often, but his thoughts were now
bordering on it.
"Can you?" she repeated.
His mind did a quick backpedal, and for a
moment he feared he wouldn't remember what she had asked.
When he didn't answer, she continued, "It
has truly frightened me, Mr. Giles.
There is no explanation for what I've been seeing and hearing. I'm not sure what else to do at this
point." She toyed nervously with the
handbag in her lap. "I know there are
things out there that I can't explain, and I don't want to. But these things, they're..."
She nodded her head vigorously. "Yes, very uncomfortable."
As she looked at him with pleading eyes,
there was no doubt in Giles' mind that he would help her. Even if it turned out to be nothing, the
holiday season was fast approaching, and if he couldn't help and assure a woman
that everything would be fine this time of year...
"It's Miss, but please call me Alex."
Giles didn't expect such a masculine name for such a feminine
creature. "You may call me Rupert."
"Rupert, then." She tilted her head toward him.
"Alex is short for Alexandria.
It's quite a mouthful."
He had caught the accent before, and
thought it out of place to ask, but he couldn't help himself. "You're an American?"
"Yes, but I've been here a couple of
years. Every once in a while I'll lose
my so-called accent, but it isn't gone long.
One phone call to the family back home and it's back in all its glory."
"What brought you here, if you don't mind
my asking?" Giles really didn't need
the information at this point, he just wanted to know.
Looking at him in a most-peculiar way, she
slowly said, "My ghost?"
Realizing his error, and feeling quite
embarrassed, he quickly added, "I'm sorry.
Not here as in my office, here as in London."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry.
I'm a little frazzled."
"No, I'm sorry," he said. "It's really none of my business."
"It's okay. I guess if you're going to help me you need to know all my deep,
dark secrets. Do you want the long
version or short version?" She spared
her wristwatch a peek. "Well, since
I've taken up more than enough of your time I'll go with the short version."
"Whichever you prefer," he said, realizing
it really didn't matter to him how much time she took. He found her voice to be very soothing, like
a gentle breeze on a warm summer's day.
"Here goes." After taking a deep breath, she began, "I needed something...
different, and I had been corresponding with a man here for almost a year. Email, phone, you name it. It seemed like a good idea at the
time." She shrugged her shoulders. "It didn't work out. Now I'm alone, and in a foreign country, and
weird things are happening to me. I
knew there was a lot of strange stuff on this side of the ocean, but who'd
think they'd bother with me?"
Giles needed to check into things a bit
before he could tell her anything specific.
Standing and walking around his desk, he
said, "Ms... Alex, we'd be more than happy to assist you. I will need to meet with my associates to
discuss a matter, of course, and then one of us will contact you. Does that sound satisfactory?"
She heaved a sigh. "That is most satisfactory. I was afraid you'd think I was crazy."
"Not in the least."
After slinging her handbag over her
shoulder, she reached out and took his hand in both of hers. "Thank you!"
"You are most welcome."
"So who's the hottie?" Buffy asked as she
plopped down in the chair that sat in the front of Giles' desk. She stretched her arms out over her
head. She was getting antsy and she
wanted to go out and do something.
Fight some baddies, see a movie, have some dinner, go shopping. Something!
The weather was a lot colder, and if she spent anymore time inside,
she'd go crazy.
"You'd like her. She's American," Giles said.
So you agree she's a hottie!"
He looked up from the book he had been
reading. "Yes, Buffy. She is quite attractive for a younger
How much younger?"
"I'm afraid to guess."
"Just guess," she said, pushing his arm
lightly. "If you're afraid to guess...
Hey! That tells me you've already been
doing the guessing thing."
"If I had to estimate her approximate
He took his glasses off and sat them on
the desk. "If I had to guess, I would say in her early forties."
"That's not too young for you! How old are you anyway? Like forty-five?"
He smiled at that. "Not quite."
You're young and happening and sexy in a you're-an-older-guy kind of
way." She shrugged her shoulders. "Besides, I'm a younger woman when you think
about it. Way younger, and look at how
good Angel and I are together."
Giles needed to get out and have some
fun. It wasn't fair that she had Angel,
and Angel had her, and John had Martha, and Martha had John, and Ari had Zilah,
and Zilah had Ari, and Giles didn't have anyone, and it was almost Christmas.
She shook her head. She so needed to get out and do something,
because now she'd even started babbling in her thoughts.
"She's a client. I can't very well ask her out on a date," Giles said.
"How about when she's not a client anymore
and she's forever indebted to you?"
"I'm fairly certain that would be
considered taking advantage of the situation."
Buffy decided not to push it. She hadn't actually spoken to the
woman. She had just seen her on the way
out. Seen her and the way Giles had
been looking at her. He had the same
look on his face that he did when he was more than pleased with a fine wine.
"Promise me you won't rule it out. Okay?
Remember what Hecata told you."
That whole thing about you and love and letting it in."
"That was Hecate, Buffy."
Smiling, she stood up and said, "Her,
He was still shaking his head when she closed
the door behind her.
Alex wasn't exactly thrilled about going
back to her apartment in London. No, it
was a flat. They called them flats here.
It was huge by London standards, actually a house divided in two with
separate entrances allowing Alex her privacy.
The older couple that rented the place out lived on the ground floor and
Alex and Marcus had lived on the top.
Now, it was only Alex.
It wasn't that she didn't like the
flat. She just didn't like being there
alone. Marcus had moved out months ago
and it still felt kind of empty. Start
adding strange noises and shadows that seem to appear, disappear, and move at
random... Well, that was an entirely different story.
Unlocking the door, she headed down the
short hall to her sitting room. She
remembered how cute she thought a sitting room would be when she had first
gotten to London. It sounded very old
fashioned to her, like something out of an old story that had plantations,
magnolias and southern gentlemen.
Her sitting room resembled more of a
living room and a dining room combination.
The room was long and narrow. On
one wall there was a royal blue couch, and sitting next to it was her desk,
with a matching blue desk chair. She
did like the royal blue. It seemed to
stand out against the tan walls.
The furthest wall held the room's only
window that overlooked the main street.
The remaining wall had her TV, stereo, and a recliner. It was finished off with a glass dining room
table for four.
Over the years she had added her own
touches to the flat: A vase of long
stemmed white orchids adorned the round glass dining room table, a trio of
white rose pictures hung over the couch that had been garnished with cream
colored throw pillows. A rectangular
glass table stood in front of the couch.
Lying on it was the latest book she had been reading. She seemed to be doing a lot of reading
lately, but that was okay. She really
liked Dean Koontz.
She walked over to her desk and dropped
her keys and handbag. Flipping through
the mail that she had picked up on her way in, she didn't find anything worth
her time so she dumped it all in the wastepaper basket.
One thing she liked about being in London
was tea. If she ever went back to
America, she had a sneaking suspicion that she wouldn't be able to get a good
Going into the kitchen, she barely noticed
the gold walls and the gray tiles. When
they had first moved in, she hadn't been too pleased with the combination of
gray and gold. The gray marble over
the stove went okay with the stainless steel appliances and white cupboards,
but it didn't complement the dark counters and gold walls on the other side of
After grabbing the tea kettle off the
shelf, she filled it with tap water.
She was tired and she just needed to get a good night's sleep. And if Mr. Giles - Rupert - couldn't help
her, she doubted she'd be getting one of those anytime soon.
Standing at the sink, she looked out the
window and saw that the day had turned into night. The brightness of the sun had been replaced by an inky blackness
that was punctuated with sparkling lights of the buildings around her. After finishing her tea, she placed her cup
in the sink, and wrapped her arms around herself. She was trying to stymie the chill creeping over her body. Fear of the dark had never been an issue for
her, but that was slowly beginning to change.
She quickly walked around the rest of the
flat and turned on a light in every room and in the hallway. If there were lights, there wouldn't be any
shadows. And if there weren't any
shadows, there couldn't be anything left in the dark to scare her.
That was the plan anyway.
"Sounds like your typical haunting," Angel
said, as he leaned against the wall in the kitchen, sipping warmed blood out of
Buffy was munching on a cookie Martha had
made earlier in the day especially for her.
Brushing the crumbs from the table she said, "Since when have hauntings
become normal?" She caught the look on
both Angel's and Giles' faces. "You
people sure have enough ghosts."
"Have they tried to harm her?" Angel
asked. He washed his mug out and placed
it in the sink.
"From what Alex has told me, no," Giles
said. "So it's more of a presence than
heeere," Buffy said. "That movie
freaked me out when I saw it. Of course
it was before I was a slayer, so that could explain the why." After thinking about it, she thought
better. "Nope. It would've scared me anyway."
"And you're having focusing issues again,
why?" Angel asked as he sat down.
Buffy kicked his leg playfully under the
table. "I'm not having issues
focusing. I'm all about the focus. I even know the first thing we need to do."
"And what would that be?" Giles asked.
"We need to go to Alex's flat and see if
there's anything there. Make sure it's
not her imagination. Which I'm sure its
not, but one can't be too sure."
Grabbing another cookie off the plate she added, "If a ghost doesn't
show up right away, we might need to split it into shifts and stay with
her. I think Giles should be the first
one to stay."
"Um..." Giles stammered.
"Dayshift of course," Buffy said. "Angel can take the night and I can fit
somewhere in between."
"That could work," Angel said. Buffy silently thrilled that he was going
along with her.
"And someone needs to research to see if
anything weird has happened there in the past.
Some incident that left a spirit behind," Buffy said.
"Banishing spell," Angel said. "If we need to banish something we should be
Buffy stood up. "Angel and I will go into research mode right now. You can go to Alex's and see what comes
She grabbed Angel's arm and dragged him
out of the kitchen, leaving Giles speechless yet again.
Giles chided himself for feeling so
nervous. He was a grown man working on
a case. He admonished himself again for
feeling like an inexperienced lad.
After ringing the bell for the second
time, he was beginning to wonder if Alex was even home.
The door opened and a pair of hazel eyes
met his green ones. It wasn't hard to
see relief spread out across her face.
Tight facial lines and a clenched jaw were soon replaced by a smile that
could light up any room.
I'm sorry!" Alex exclaimed. "I
was in the kitchen. I can't tell you
how glad I am that you're here." She
looked over his shoulder. "Are your
associates here as well?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. Currently, they are conducting more thorough research. We believe that would be of more help to you
"Please come in." She stepped aside so he could pass.
"Did anything happen last night?" he asked
as he surveyed her home. The general
location of the building screamed money and class. Not that those things mattered much to him, but she wore them
Leading him to the sitting room, she said,
"Please sit." She motioned for the
couch. "Before we start, can I get you
"That's not necessary."
"But do you want some?" she asked, eyeing
Giles met her smile. "If it wouldn't be any trouble."
"The kettle is already on. I'll be right back."
He watched as she left the room. The pantsuit from the day before had been
replaced. A pair of black jeans and a
golden turtleneck sweater, which brought out the amber in her hazel eyes, stood
in its place. He couldn't believe he
had become smitten in such a short period of time.
It had been too long.
"Here you go," she said, walking back into
the room. She set the tea tray down on
the table in front of the couch. "Tea
and crumpets would probably be the right thing to serve, but I really don't
know what crumpets are."
"The crumpet has a distinctive flat top
covered in small holes. It has a resilient, slightly spongy texture and a
rather bland flavor which, when eaten hot with a topping, jam, honey, Marmite,
or cheese, can make them quite tasty," Giles said, taking a sip of tea.
"I beg your pardon?"
"They're biscuits. Flaky, hot, and taste good with butter or honey. Jam even.
I'm not sure about the Marmite.
I didn't like it." She shook her
head. "But still, they're
biscuits. You can eat them at breakfast
or dinner. Whenever you want."
"I do believe you and Buffy will get along
splendidly." He couldn't help but state
the obvious. "Crumpets could be served
at breakfast with scrambled eggs, but that's not typical."
"Biscuits can be served at breakfast
too. You can get sausage gravy to put
over them, although I was never tempted by that. And since we're not exactly having breakfast..."
"The lack of crumpets and or biscuits would
But if one day there's breakfast involved..."
"I will bring the crumpets myself." The words were out of his mouth before he
could think of their implication.
"And I could scramble the eggs." Thankfully, after that little exchange, Alex
changed the subject and Giles wondered if was intentional.
"Who is Buffy?"
"One of my associates at Project
Paranormal. She and Angel."
"Buffy and Angel? Seriously?"
He hadn't thought about it lately, but the
names did sound odd on their own, let alone together. "Yes, I am quite serious."
"Angel," she said. "An immortal spiritual
being which functions as an intermediary between the realm of men and that of
the Divine." His cup stopped half way to his mouth.
"I'm sorry," she continued. "I've been doing a lot of research myself, I
guess you could say. I remember reading
that on a website. I figured if I had a
ghost, an angel might not be a bad thing to have around."
The defintion she'd stumbled upon had been
very close to home, and it had shocked him.
Getting over his temporary speechlessness he said, "There is nothing
wrong with research. But you need to understand
that there is a lot of inaccurate information available. It is our job to weed out the fiction from
"Which is yet another reason I'm glad you're
"Which leads me back to topic," he said,
hoping he didn't sound too stiff. "Has
anything happened since yesterday?"
"It is the reason why you're here, isn't it?"
she said, sounding slightly disappointed.
Giles couldn't mistake the tone in her
voice. "It is."
"It's been a while since I've had
company. It seems like all the people I
had thought were friends turned out to be Marcus' friends. Once we split... Well, they don't come around much anymore."
"Marcus would be the man you moved here
for?" The ex probably didn't have
anything to do with what was going on, but he had to be sure.
She nodded her head. "I thought he was the perfect man. That should've made me suspicious right
there. There's no such thing as
Giles leaned forward and placed his empty tea
cup on his saucer. "I know this is
difficult for you, but is there any chance that he has something to do with
what's going on?"
"Believe me, that thought crossed my mind,
but its highly doubtful. I've learned
through the proverbial grapevine that he has relocated. He is currently somewhere in the United
States with yet another women he met online."
The indignity this woman had suffered was too
much for even Giles. He knew what it
had taken for her to confess that she had made a huge mistake. He admired her for it. "I'm sorry."
She put up her hand to stop him for
continuing. "I know it makes me sound
like an idiot-"
It was his turn to stop her. "No.
You are not an idiot, madam. You
took a chance and it didn't work out.
That is all. If you ask my
opinion, it would be that Marcus is the idiot."
"I kept telling myself the same thing," she
said with a laugh. "It sounds more convincing coming from you,
"I only state the truth."
"I can see that." She waited a beat and then said, "Okay, weird things that have
happened. Come on. I'll show you the wheres."
Giles followed her out of the sitting
room. Bypassing the entry door and the
kitchen, Alex brought him into her bedroom.
A king sized bed stood in the middle of the
room. The fabric covered headboard
matched the sofa that had been in the sitting room. The cream colored bedspread was offset by royal blue and gray
She must've noticed that he was studying the
room. "I really like royal blue. I think I might've gone a little crazy."
"Not at all.
I find it quite striking," he said.
Next to the bed was a nightstand and resting
on it was a vase that matched the one in the sitting room. Instead of white orchids, this vase held
The look was completed by a mirror that
encompassed one wall in the room. A
dresser sitting in front of it. The
clothes closet resided next to the bed.
She took a deep breath and then began to
talk. "First there was loud banging
coming from the roof. I attributed it to noisy neighbors, but then I realized I
didn't have any neighbors above me. I
was half asleep when it happened," she said as an obivious explanation to her
mistake. "Anyway, it almost sounded
like knocking and I thought that was odd for being so late. I didn't ask the landlords about it because
I was afraid they'd think I was crazy."
"What happened next?"
"Come on," she said, leading him out of the
bedroom and into the sitting room. "The
next morning I came in here to get my handbag and keys. The pictures above the couch were all
hanging upside down."
"Does anyone besides your landlord have
"I know what you're thinking, and no. Once Marcus left, I got permission and I had
all the locks changed."
The next stop was the bathroom. "A few nights later, the knocking, banging,
whatever you want to call it, woke me again.
I got up and came in here, I needed to get out of my bedroom. All of the lids to my lotions and shampoos
had been taken off. There wasn't a
mess. They weren't dumped out or
anything, but they had all been removed.
And all the drawers in the vanity had been pulled out."
"Whatever it is, it sounds quite
She wrapped her arms around her
shoulders. "You could say that. About a month ago, right before I was
getting into bed, I heard knocking again.
This time it was coming from the spare bedroom. I ran to see if I could spot anything. As soon as I got there the knocking stopped,
but then it started up again in my bedroom.
When I got to my bedroom, it stopped and started up in my bathroom. It went on for hours. I didn't get any sleep. I didn't know where to go or what to do,"
she said, her voice getting shaky.
They were back in the sitting room. "That was pretty much the final straw for
me. All in all, it was kind of nerve
wracking, and I need it to stop."
Giles didn't have time to answer. His cell phone rang. "I'm sorry," he fumbled awkwardly with the
device. "Hello?" He paused as the
familiar voice chittered back at him. "Oh, Buffy. Have you found out anything?"
"Not really," she responded. "The house was built quite a while ago. No one's been murdered in it. No one's died under mysterious circumstances
in it. It's been in the same family for
"Pretty much what I was thinking," Buffy
"Doesn't make much sense does it?" Giles
Anything weird happen since you've been there?" Buffy asked.
"Not a thing."
"What have you been doing all this time?"
Giles couldn't miss the tone Buffy's voice
was taking or the direction the conversation was headed. "We've been recounting the events that have
made Alex uncomfortable. I shall be
"It's almost dinner time. Maybe you should ask her out for something
"Yes, all right then. I'll talk to you later." Giles snapped the cell phone closed. He wasn't about to get into the dicussion
again. Besides, he wasn't sure whether
or not Alex could hear both sides of the conversation in the quietness of the
flat. Her facial expression hadn't
changed during the entire duration of the call.
"Bad news?" she asked.
"That would depend on which light you take it
in," he said. "There is no dark history
to this flat or the residential house that it was before. No one has died violently here, which is
usually what causes these things to happen."
"A spirit not being able to rest."
That is not the case here.
People aren't typically haunted with no extenuating circumstances, like
this. Has anyone you known died recently?"
She shook her head. "No. Everyone I truly
care about is back in the States and they're all fine."
"Then I'm sorry, Alex. But I do not know what to tell you. We can continue our research and maybe have
Angel and Buffy come here tomorrow night.
Sometimes they can... they have a way."
"They can sense stuff?"
"More or less." He couldn't believe what he had just told her, but it didn't
really make him feel uncomfortable.
"I get it.
It makes sense." She rolled her
neck around her shoulders. Up until
then, Giles hadn't really noticed the fatigue outlined on her face.
"It might help if you left for a while," he said. "Maybe find another place to stay."
"Thought's crossed my mind. But I'll be damned if I'm going to get
chased out of here."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"That's very nice of you to offer, but until
you can figure out what's going on..."
"I understand. If anything else happens, let me know. You can call me day or night."
As she walked him to the front door, she
said, "I will do that. Trust me. It feels good to know I'm not alone in this
The holidays really never held anything
special for Angel, but he was trying to change that.
An evergreen Christmas tree symbolized
renewed life. And that seemed
appropriate for Giles, Buffy, and himself.
Holly was celebrated for its protective powers. In Angel's book, protective powers were
always a good thing.
He figured they were ready for some peace and if Christmas wasn't the time for
peace, he didn't know when was.
Christmas was a holiday steeped in
superstition and folk belief. Everything comes from something. In all the years
as Angel had been around, he had witnessed quite a few rituals come and go.
People used to gather around their
hearths. They didn't do it because they
were cold. They did it because they
considered the dark and cold months scary.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, was the day evil
forces lurked just out of sight and sometimes directly in front of you if you
It was a vulnerable time. Bad things were always around, but at this
particular time they were out in force.
The so-called bad things had a longer time to hunt due to the increased
darkness. The shorter day meant a
longer night, and they had taken full advantage.
Friends and family would gather together
and celebrate loudly hoping the noise would scare any would-be monsters
away. Too many people made for hard
targets, right? In Angelus' mind it
made it more fun, more of a challenge.
And that had suited him, Darla, Spike, and Drusilla just fine.
He checked through his list and crossed
off yet another idea. There was a
perfect gift for Buffy; he just needed to figure out exactly what it would
be. It wasn't that he didn't have any
ideas on what to get her, it was that he had too many.
He shook his head. Times had definitely changed when Angel was
thinking about good gift ideas that didn't involve blood or torture.
"You look all thinky."
Angel jumped. He had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he hadn't even heard
Buffy come into the room.
Standing up, he stuffed his list into his
pocket. "I was sitting here. I'm wasn't
"Sneaky then?" Buffy asked.
"How is that sneaky?"
"You jumped. First indication of doing something you shouldn't be doing and
getting caught at it. It's a given,"
she said, nodding her head and smiling.
"Dawn taught me that one."
"Doesn't count with us," he said. "You're a Slayer. You can sneak up without anybody knowing."
"And you're a vampire. The sneaking up on you thing? Not that easy."
"Who said I didn't know?" he said,
crossing his arms in front of him.
"Maybe I was playing along."
Her brow creased above her sparkling green
eyes. He loved her when she looked at
him that way. Who was he trying to
kid? He loved her no matter what way
she looked at him.
"I'm not buying it, but I'll let you slide
this time," she said.
Pulling her into his arms he said, "Oh, I
can slide. I can slide fast. I can slide--"
She pulled away. "No you don't! You know
it takes absolutely nothing to tempt me." Standing up taller, she said, "But
I'm being strong. We have to go. Giles is back and he's sent me up here to
get you. We need to work on the case
and on getting him a date."
"Why are you pushing that so much?"
"The holidays are coming. No one should be alone."
"He's not alone, Buffy. He has us."
"And although that's a wonderful thing..."
"This is one of the reasons why I always
hated the holiday season."
"If people's lives aren't perfect or the
way they think they should be, they get broody."
"I'm not broody."
She had been different lately. Maybe not broody or even depressed for that
matter, but there was something going on with her. "If you say so."
"I say so." She poked him in the stomach.
"Now, come on. Let's go get the
scoop on Giles' new girlfriend."
Grabbing his arm, she dragged him out the door.
He didn't bother reminding her that Giles
wasn't one to mix business and pleasure.
the most wonderful time of the year.
the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you,
of good cheer,"
the most wonderful time of the year.
be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow.
be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.
the most wonderful time of the year.
be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near.
the most wonderful time of the year.
Pola, George Wyle 1963 )
"How exactly do you expect to pull this
off?" Giles asked.
"I'll need your help," Angel said.
Giles ran his fingers through his
hair. "It's a beautiful thought,
Angel. Really, I mean it."
"So you'll help?"
Giles smiled. "Of course I'll help."
Angel heaved a sigh. "The daytime thing is what's killing me
along with what we already talked about.
It's a specialty shop. They're
only open for a few hours a day."
"With Buffy spending so much time at
Alex's, that most definitely will help."
He had been right. Buffy and
Alex had hit it off splendidly just like he thought they would.
"She's there right now," Angel
continued. "Shopping and having lunch."
"It's good that Buffy is making friends."
"She's hoping that you will be making one
Giles smiled awkwardly at the vampire. "I know she does."
"But Alex is a client."
It wouldn't be right."
"What about when she's not a client
The thought of what would happen when he
was no longer employed by Alex had crossed Giles' mind on more than one
occasion. He had been back to her flat
multiple times now and each outing had been even more pleasant than the first
one had been. She had even tried making
crumpets and all though they had turned out horribly, Giles couldn't help but
"We are quite friendly, but I'm not sure
if it'll be taken beyond friendship."
"But you're not ruling it out?"
"I never rule anything out, Angel."
"I love Gucci," Alex said.
"And I'm sure he loves you too," Buffy
said as she shifted her bag from one arm to the other. "I don't love Gucci so much. Gucci costs a little more than I can afford
"I saw those boots you were looking at,"
Alex said. "You could've gotten a deal
on them. I wish I could've bought them
for you. After all you've done. What you're still doing."
"I haven't done anything," Buffy said.
"We could've told Rupert that it was
partial payment for taking on," she lowered her voice, "The Case of the Haunted Flat."
"Oh," Buffy said, laughing. "I'm sure that would've gone over well
especially since we haven't proved it's haunted yet."
"Just a thought." She shrugged her shoulders. "I'll let you in a little secret. I couldn't have afforded them either. I was going on the entire ‘it's the thought
that counts' philosophy."
"I was thinking you might be secretly
wealthy or something."
But no such luck, basically I have just enough to live on from my
grandmother's estate. It was the only
reason I could drop everything and move here."
"I'm sure you do Grandma proud," Buffy
"So what did you think of shopping?"
"I thought the Anya Hindmarch store was
pretty cool," Buffy said. She had
stopped dead in her tracks when she had seen that one. It would've done Anya proud. "And I picked up a few things, so that
worked out pretty well."
"Their stuff was kind of neat. But do you know what my favorite store was?"
"Harvey Nichols. How could you not like a store that has eight stories?"
"Let me take that," Buffy said. Alex was having a hard time handling her
bags and trying to open the flat's door at the same time.
"Thanks," she said as she pushed the door
open. "Just toss everything in the
sitting room. I'll make us some tea."
Buffy liked Alex's flat. She always seemed to have fresh flowers
around and that added to the hominess of the place and took away from the
dreariness of the weather.
"Hey, Buffy?" Alex called out to her from the kitchen.
"There's a pretty cold draft. Can you make sure we closed the front door?"
"Um, yeah," Buffy said as her Slayer
tingle went on red alert. She knew the
front door had been closed, and she also knew a supernatural chilling of the
air when she felt it. "Are you okay?"
Yes," Alex said. "I'm-"
Alex finished her sentence with a
scream. Not missing a beat, Buffy ran
into the kitchen and skidded to a halt when she saw the cause of that scream.
"Tell me you're seeing that," Alex said.
"Oh, I'm seeing it."
The tea tray Alex had prepared was sitting
on the counter. A small tea kettle, two
cups, two saucers, a creamer, and a sugar bowl sat next to the cups. What caused the alarm was a third tea cup
being placed on the tray, and then a fourth that appeared to be floating in the
air just above the tea tray. Buffy
thought it was floating, but after a closer look she realized a ghostly man was
holding the cup. He smiled at them.
"I might not be an expert," Alex
said. "But I think that's a ghost."
"I am an expert," Buffy said. "And you're right. That's a ghost." Between
the cold chill, her Slayer vibe, and a hovering tea cup or two she didn't have
The fourth cup slowly lowered and landed
gently on the tray. Both women stood
there as a third cup of tea was poured.
"I'm just wondering one thing..." Alex said.
"Who's the fourth cup for?"
"They should be here anytime," Buffy
said. Alex had been pacing nonstop
since the tea incident and Buffy would feel better when Giles and Angel got
there. "You can sit down you know."
"I don't want to sit down. What if it sat down next to me? I would freak. I couldn't take it."
"And on the other hand, what makes you so
sure that it's not pacing right next to you at the moment?"
Alex sat down.
"It'll be okay," Buffy said, sitting down
next to her. "It hasn't hurt you or us
for that matter. I don't think it's
"It's still freaking me out." She rubbed her arms nervously. "I'm not alone in my flat and I can't always
see my guest. What's if it's some kind
of pervy ghost and it watches me while I shower? Or when I..." Her voice trailed off and her eyes grew wide. "I'm going to die of embarrassment. That's what I'm going to do. A ghost is going to kill me by embarrassing
me to death. That's probably been its
evil plan all along."
Thoughts of things Buffy had done when she
had thought she was alone began zipping through her brain. With even more conviction she said, "We'll
figure this out. You'll be alone
"Know what's funny?"
"After Marcus left the thought of being
alone terrified me. Now it's all I
want. Funny how things change."
"Be careful what you wish for?"
Alex's anxiety was beginning to rub off on
Buffy and when she jumped at the sound of a loud knock, Buffy jumped right
along with her.
Realizing that it was the front door and
not the ghost again, Buffy said, "It's gotta be Giles and Angel. I'll let them in."
"You're not leaving me here alone!" Alex
jumped up and followed Buffy.
"Are you okay?" Angel asked, standing just
outside the front door.
"I'm fine," Buffy said.
"Hi," Alex said, waving him inside. "Come on in. This is where the fun's at, after all."
Angel smiled and walked in, Giles directly
"Where's Alex? Are you both all right?" Giles asked.
"We're fine." Buffy began, but Giles had
walked past her and gone directly to Alex.
"You're not hurt?" he asked Alex.
"Not hurt. Kind of weirded out, but not hurt."
Buffy turned to Angel. "I'm fine too, thanks for asking," she said
and was greeted with a ‘What did I do?' look.
"Alex," Giles said. "This is Angel."
"Angel," she said, extending her
hand. "Nice to meet you finally. It must be chilly out. Your hands are freezing."
"A bit," Angel said.
"Are you getting anything?" Giles asked.
"Not much," Angel said. "Do you mind if I take a look around?"
"Not at all," Alex said.
"I'll come with," Buffy added.
As they explored the rest of the flat,
Buffy was disappointed. Whatever spirit
had invited itself and a guest to tea wasn't there anymore.
"Whatever it was is gone now," Angel said.
"I kind of got that. Maybe it didn't like the flavor of tea being
He looked at her. "I can't believe that actually happened."
"Kind of surprised me, too. I can handle big bads, and vampires, and
demons, but one that helps itself to tea?
Not so much."
"I think it's a good idea that we're
staying over. It hasn't been dark long,
maybe it'll come back sometime during the night."
Buffy nodded. "Alex did say it shows up mostly at night. Maybe we'll hit it lucky."
"And if it takes more than one night?"
Buffy tipped her head in the direction of
the sitting room and smiled. "Then so
Buffy and Angel made themselves
comfortable in the extra room. Giles
had volunteered for the couch in the sitting room. It worked out better for those involved. Buffy and Angel could make sure that the
window was completely covered while they slept. The idea of waking up with a pile of dust didn't sit well with
Buffy at all.
"Are you going to try and get some sleep?"
Angel asked, catching her yawn.
"Did you bring my stuff?"
"What do you think?"
"That you brought my stuff." She took his hands in hers. "I missed you."
"But you were shopping."
Rolling her eyes she said, "I still can
miss you when I shop. And no peeking in
any bags you see lying around mister!"
"Yes ma'am!" He tipped his head toward the closed bedroom door. "Sounds like Giles and Alex are in the
kitchen having a drink."
"Then we're staying here."
"You're doing that matchmaking thing
I like Alex and I love Giles."
"She seems okay."
"You don't know her yet. Give it some time. She's a good person, Angel.
I know it."
"At least I don't feel embarrassed
anymore," Alex said, setting her glass down.
She had hoped the brandy would've warmed her up a little bit, conquer
the chill from the inside, but it hadn't work out that way. Now, it was sitting like a lava rock in the
pit of her stomach.
"There was no need to be embarrassed,
"Oh, I know that now, but before? I still haven't told my family. I'm pretty sure my mom would order me back
home, afraid that I was having a nervous breakdown or something. I'm not having a nervous breakdown am I?"
Of that I am quite sure."
Usually I'm a silver-lining kind of gal, but the silver-lining in all of
this is a little tarnished." She heaved
a long, drawn out sigh and then added, "But on the other hand, I got to meet
you and Buffy. I haven't felt this
connected to people in months." She had
been in two minds whether or not to share her feelings with Rupert, but she
figured they had gotten friendly enough, and it was only right that she be
honest with him. "So, what I'm trying
to say is no matter what happens, thank you."
"You're most welcome," he said, standing
up and extending his hand to her.
"However, I do believe that I have kept you awake much too long. You need your rest. These situations have the tendency to wear
on people after a while."
She accepted his hand, and smiled. He was such a gentleman, and he always made
her feel special with how concerned he was for her. "Are you sure you have everything you need?"
The pillow and blanket you provided will suffice nicely. Thank you."
She had taken one of the pillows from her
bed and had given it to him. The extra
bedroom, where Angel and Buffy were staying, held the only other bed pillows in
As he walked her to her bedroom door, she
was reminded of taking a stroll with someone you care about. Maybe in a park that had a babbling brook,
and then maybe you packed a really nice picnic basket. Marcus never liked doing anything like that
and it was one of her favorite things to do.
And if she closed her eyes and concentrated hard enough, she could
imagine that it was warm and that they were in a park. But it wasn't Marcus that she was walking
hand in hand with...
"Sleep well," Giles said.
One of her eyes squinted open. They were standing outside her bedroom
door. She didn't just do what she
thought she had? Yep, she had. As she opened both of her eyes, she said,
"Thank you. I'll see you in the
morning." And once she reached the
sanctuary of her room, she closed the door and heaved a nice long sigh as she
leaned against it.
Alex wasn't sure what woke her. Initially, she had been too impressed with
the fact that she had actually been able to fall asleep. It didn't take long for her eyes to adjust
to the darkness, because it wasn't all that dark. She had installed multiple nightlights throughout the room days
ago, and they provided just enough light for her to see into every nook,
cranny, and corner of her room. And
there was no way she was going to let herself dwell on the ramifications of a
woman her age needing a nightlight... or four.
In the furthest corner of the room a woman
stood; she was looking out the window.
She was petite, not even five feet tall, and wore clothing from another
era. Alex was no expert, but she thought
that they were nightclothes from a time long gone. The bed cap was a dead giveaway.
The woman was there, but then she
wasn't. Alex was able to see through
her, and see her in detail all at the same time. Was this, too, a ghost?
Something niggled Alex's brain. Something wasn't quite right, and she wasn't
just talking about the ghost. That's
when she realized that the illumination wasn't coming from the nightlights she
had plugged in. It was coming from
flickering candles that were nestled in wooden candlesticks from around the
room. Once that realization nestled
itself comfortably in her brain, she realized that she wasn't exactly in her
own room anymore either.
Sitting upright in her bed, she hugged her
covers to her chest, and then dropped them.
They weren't her covers, and it wasn't her bed. The room was hers, but nothing in it was.
"Rupert!" she shouted, rushing from the
bed and out of the room.
"It was a shadow," Giles said.
"A what?" Buffy asked.
"What she said," Alex added.
"Are you sure?" Angel asked.
Listening as the three people in front of
him kept rapidly shooting questions at him, in his half-awake state, was almost
too much for Giles to handle.
"Please," he said, putting his hand up to
stop them. "Let's go sit."
Once they were all settled in the sitting
room he began to speak, "I believe we have two things at work here: a
tea-totting ghost and a shadow."
"What's a shadow?"
"A reflection of the past," Angel said.
"Really?" Buffy said. "That's a first. I think."
"Okay, I know this is all normal for you
people, but I have absolutely no idea what any of you are talking about," Alex
said, collapsing against the back of the couch. "If it weren't for all the weirdness lately I would've attributed
it to a dream."
"This woman didn't know you were there,
did she?" Giles asked. "She didn't
acknowledge you like the man with the tea?"
Alex shook her head. "No.
She was looking out the window.
And even when I called out for you, she didn't budge. She just stood there. What does that mean? What's the difference?"
"A ghost is a spirit that hasn't moved
on. They stay for a multitude of
reasons," Giles said. "Maybe they
weren't ready to move on, maybe they don't know that they've passed, maybe they
have a message for someone still living.
It could be anything. Shadows
are not spirits. They're really not
here. It's almost like you're viewing a
movie. A period of time that has left
its image engrained in this reality."
"Could the two be connected?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know," Giles said, and he really
didn't. "The odds of having an actual
ghost are exceptionally high. The odds
of having a shadow are even higher.
Both? That is beyond any sort of
"Aren't I the lucky one?" Alex said, her
eyes closed, her head resting against the back of the couch.
Giles had just fallen asleep when Alex had
cried out. It wasn't that he wasn't
accustomed to sleeping in strange surroundings, it was the fact that Alex's
scent was all over the pillow that he had been trying to fall asleep on. All sorts of thoughts were going through his
mind, thoughts he shouldn't have been having, and then the sound of her voice
actually calling out his name? It had
almost been too much. Reality had momentarily
intruded on his fantasy and he felt very guilty about the entire thing.
"The odds of you going back to sleep
aren't very good are they?" Giles asked, trying to steer his mind back on
She peeked at him out of the corner of her
eye. "If you were a betting man you'd
be a winner."
"I'll stay with her," Buffy said.
"You'll what?" Angel asked, no missing the
surprise in his voice.
"You'd do that?" Alex asked.
Buffy nodded her head. "Yeah, I would. It'll be like a slumber party."
Alex laughed. "I promise I won't freeze your bra."
I won't freeze yours either."
"Or put peanut butter between your toes."
"Or put your hand in a bucket of warm
water!" Buffy added, obviously having fun with it.
"Does that really work?" Alex asked.
Buffy shrugged. "I have no idea and I'm not willing to find out."
Giles decided he didn't want to know what
they were talking about, and by the look on Angel's face he didn't want to know
"You haven't mentioned any of this to the
landlords?" Buffy asked Alex as they lay in Alex's bed, on their backs, staring
at the ceiling.
I was afraid they'd kick me out because they thought I was a loon."
"I can't imagine that you're the first one
this has happened to. Do you know who
lived here before you?" she asked.
"I have no idea, but I'm beginning to see
why they moved out." Alex said. "It's
all Marcus' fault. What kind of name is
Marcus Carpenter anyway? I bet you he
changed his first name to sound all mysterious and exotic. His name's probably Joe or Tom or something
that doesn't sound exotic at all."
"Giles kind of gave me the sitch on how
you got here and everything. Sorry
about that," Buffy said, meaning it.
She was pretty much with Giles in the ‘feeling really bad for Alex'
"What can you do? I got to see London and if it wasn't for him
that would've never happened."
Rolling onto her side, and leaning on her
hand, Buffy asked, "Think you'll go back to America?"
Alex turned and looked at her. "I don't know. Sometimes it's really lonely, but I really do like it over
here. What about you?"
Buffy would be lying if she said she
didn't think about it once in a while.
But her life was here now with Giles, Angel, and Project
Paranormal. "I think about it, but I
guess that's part of my past. My future
is here with Giles and Angel."
"Kind of not going back? Not being able to change your past and all
that," Alex said. "I get that. I guess time will tell."
"It does that."
"It's nice having you around, though."
"You know once this is over we won't be
around so much?" Buffy hated to be so blunt about it, but it was the
"Oh, I know that. I'm just enjoying it while it lasts," Alex
"But you're only a couple hours away. Doesn't mean we can't see each other on
occasion and you can come and see us too.
You haven't had food until you've tasted Martha's cooking."
"She and her husband John work for
Giles. They're good people."
"Seems like you're surrounded by them,"
Alex said, a tinge of envy in her voice.
"And right now so are you."
Buffy wasn't sure what time they fell
asleep, all she knew now was that she was wide awake while Alex slept soundly
beside her. The last thing she wanted
to do was wake her.
Alex's old-fashioned woman was back. This time instead of standing at the window,
she was sitting in an older rocking chair with a blanket tightly wrapped around
her shoulders. The room looked
different, just like Alex said it did.
There was no mistaking it was from a different time.
Giles was right. It was like watching a movie.
The ghost, who had helped himself to tea, was standing by the mystery
woman trying to get her to drink something from a small cup. All she would do was shake her head slowly
back and forth, and wrap the blanket more tightly around her shoulders. When the ghost man offered her his hand, she
accepted it. He led her toward the
door, where he opened it, and she followed him into the hall. Once they were gone from sight, the room
returned to normal, with no sign of anything from a hundred years ago.
"Okay," Buffy said quietly. "Interesting much?"
She wasn't sure what time it was and, like
Alex, she knew Giles needed some sleep.
There would only be one person she could talk to about this where sleep
pretty much wasn't an issue. She
slipped out of bed, and when she was sure she hadn't woken Alex, she went back
to her own room.
Angel was bored. It was one thing not to be tired, but it was another to have Buffy
down the hall sleeping with another woman.
Which once upon a time wouldn't have been a bad idea, but that was a
different time and different place... and different people.
On one hand, he was glad he was here to
help, but there wasn't much for him to do.
Alex was a nice enough person; he just hadn't gotten to know her that
well yet. He almost felt like a fifth
wheel when it came to her, Buffy, and Giles.
"Are you asleep?" Buffy asked as she
walked into the room.
Angel was sitting in a chair in the
corner, not even close to being near the bed, or in a prone position. "Nope."
Smiling brightly she said, "I kind of see
"PJ party over already?" he asked as she
slid into his lap, and linked her fingers behind his neck.
"You sound jealous!"
"Why would I be jealous?" he asked,
placing a kiss on her lips. "Just
because you left me alone in a perfectly nice room with an even nicer bed. Did I mention you left me alone?"
"For one night, you big baby," she said,
jumping off his lap. "I saw our shadow
That he wasn't expecting. He figured she had snuck back to be with
"In Alex's room. She's still sleeping, but from what I can tell? I think maybe it's telling a story."
"What kind of story?"
She plopped down and on the edge of the
bed. "I'm not sure. But they are connected. I think I know who the fourth cup of tea was
And I think in her time she was very sick. Even for a shadow she wasn't looking all that great."
"So what do we have? A ghost who won't move on and a shadow from
another time. Husband and wife?"
"That's what I was thinking."
"So why did the husband stay?" Angel sat
down next to Buffy on the bed, their thighs toughing, Angel enjoying the warmth
that she always shared with him.
"Maybe he died before her?"
"And didn't move on because he didn't want
to leave her?"
"I suppose, but that doesn't make sense
does it? If she's gone now, why is he
staying?" she asked.
"Maybe he doesn't know she's dead," Angel said. "Or that he's dead."
"Could he think the shadows are reality?"
"Possibly. Maybe he's summoning them?"
"The shadows?" she asked. "Like when he gets lonely or something?"
Angel was starting to feel frustrated in
more ways than one. "It could be
anything, Buffy. I don't know."
She put her head on his shoulder, and his
hand automatically went up and began stroking her hair. "We need to find out, but then again..."
"Once we do we'll go home."
She nodded her head. "I like Alex. She's kind of like home without needing to go back there."
"You'll still be able to see her,
Buffy. London isn't really that far
"I know," she said in a sigh. "Maybe I'm just tired too."
"Want to invite her back for
Christmas?" The words rolled off his
tongue like change off a slanted counter.
Looking at him she said, "Do you think
Giles would care?"
Sensing everything from Giles' increasing
pulse rate to his body temperature change whenever Alex was around, Angel
highly doubted it.
"Not thinking so."
Once Buffy and Angel had caught Giles and
Alex up on the previous night's activities, Alex looked even paler, and Giles
looked even more intrigued.
"I hate to admit it," Giles said, thinking
there was no other choice. "But we
might need to speak with the individuals that own this building."
"I'm going to get evicted." Alex said, looking at Buffy. "Wanna help me pack?"
"You are not going to get evicted," Giles
said. "A few non-imposing questions
would suffice. We don't need to tell
them that their establishment is haunted."
"I'll talk to them," Buffy said.
"You?" Giles and Angel asked in unison.
"Hey!" Buffy said. "Don't sound so surprised. Alex is coming with me."
"Yes. We're going to talk to them. Someone has got to know what in the hell is
going on around here. And since we
don't seem to be the ones who know..."
"You will help me pack though, right?"
Buffy tugged Alex to her feet. "Look at it this way. It's like a bandage. The sooner we get this done and over with,
the less painful it'll be."
"That's Cleda," Lillian Carpenter said.
Buffy asked. When she had laid
it all out on the line to the older woman, who turned out to be Lillian
Carpenter, someone named ‘Cleda' was the furthest ‘What could it be? on her
She and Obediah are my ancestors.
Obediah built this place. Has he
been bothering you too?"
Buffy risked a sideways glance at Alex who
was just sitting there, nodding, wide-eyed not saying a single-solitary word.
"Does he by chance like tea?" Buffy asked.
Lillian laughed heartedly. "He loves his tea, but Cleda isn't really
there. She's a shadow you know."
"Yeah, I kinda got that," Buffy said.
"Could you maybe start from the
beginning?" Alex asked. Buffy was grateful.
She was beginning to wonder if Alex was going to say anything at
all. "Is Marcus Carpenter a relative?"
He's a descendent. He was
supposed to take over for me and my husband; we're too old now, but he took
off." She turned to Alex. "That is why he left you. He didn't want to be tied down to this
building even though that is his destiny.
It would've been passed down to him and then his heirs. We can't leave our family behind."
Buffy could more than relate to destiny
and leaving people behind, but the part that stood out the most was Lillian's
reference to heirs. Apparently Alex has
snatched onto that little tidbit too.
"Heirs?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Lillian said, patting Alex's
hand. "We were hoping he'd finally met
the right one and settle down with you, my dear. But the boy has ants in his pants. We realize that if he can't settle down with you, the chances of
him settling down with anyone are pretty much out of the question."
"Okay," Buffy said. "Let's back up a minute. Obediah and his shadow of a wife, Cleda, are
the ones that we keep seeing?"
Obediah married Cleda and he built them this home. They lived many long and happy years here,
but age and illness gets the best of us all.
Cleda was sick most of her life and she died before Obediah did,
terribly sad time I suspect. Obediah
went shortly thereafter still denying that Cleda was dead and gone. He didn't move on when he passed, but Cleda
did. Once he realized his error, and
realized that it was too late and that he had ruined his chance to be with his
beloved, he began to will her back, but all he got was her shadow, which is the
result of memories of his dear-departed wife.
When you see Cleda, it's the way Obediah sees her at that time."
"What was with all the banging and messing
up my stuff?" Alex asked.
"Oh, that would've been Obediah. He figures the noise would bring Cleda
around, and if that didn't work... well, the woman hated a mess. Everything has a place, and everything in its
"They've been around how long?" Buffy
"Oh, a hundred years give or take a decade
or two," Lillian said.
"And you didn't tell me?" Alex asked.
"Marcus was supposed to tell you. Another
strike against that boy. You don't have
anything to fear. Obediah won't hurt
you and even if Cleda wanted to, she wouldn't be able," Lillian said. "I do wish Obediah would move on though. He needs to be with Cleda and at this rate
it'll never happen."
"What if I told you there was a way?"
"Then I'd say, dear girl, go ahead and do
it and then we can all rest in peace."
"Just when I thought it couldn't get
weirder," Alex said as she reviewed the list Rupert had given her. "Sage bundle, sandalwood, Vesta powder, four
candles of elemental representations, athame, and a mortar and pestle."
"Yes," Giles said. "We have all we need and once we've cast the
spell, Obediah should have moved on."
"And then he can be with his wife. Kind of romantic if you think about it,"
Buffy said. "Isn't Vespa a scooter or
"Vesta powder, Buffy. Not Vespa," Giles said.
"A Vespa is a motor scooter," Angel added.
"I have a lot of questions," Alex said,
with the emphasis on the ‘a lot'. "But
I'd settle for a definition of what Vesta powder is and what in the hell is an
"Vesta powder," Giles began, "is basically
a banishing powder. Vesta is the
goddess of the hearth, the sacred fire, and maternity."
"Athame is a ceremonial knife," Angel
"We're not going to be cutting someone up
are we? There are limits, and I don't
give up my blood willingly... or even unwillingly for that matter," Alex
said. She noticed the odd look that
passed among her three guests, but she didn't have time to ask what it was
about before Giles distracted her by placing his hand lightly on her arm.
"No, there will be no cutting of
anyone. It's strictly a tool that
directs energy," he said.
"Good to know," Alex said, not feeling any
more relieved. "Let's just get this
"Yes, let's," Giles said.
After clearing a space in the kitchen,
Giles created a circle out of the Vesta powder. He placed the small marble mortar and pestle in the center of the
circle and then put the sandalwood inside the mortar. He took the four candles of elemental representation and began
placing them in equal spacing around the circle.
"I call to the Eastern Quarter," he
said. He then moved to the second
candle. "I call to the Southern
Once he was done with the Western and
Northern Quarters he began to speak, "I conjure you, O ancient ones, Odin
and Freya. To bring back peace and serenity to this tortured soul. We gather
tonight to banish this spirit who is no longer a man. Let him move on."
Out of the corner of her eye, Alex caught
a glimmer of Obediah Carpenter as he appeared with a look of confusion on his
"I conjure the mystical ones. Remove
this spirit of confusing influences and send him through the gates whence he
should have gone. Trouble him not. He is a friend."
Obediah Carpenter moved, as if floating,
and was now standing next to Alex. He
wasn't corporeal, but she could sense his presence without even looking at him
In this state, he wasn't an old man by any
means. After a few quick peeks, Alex found the nerve to actually turn her head
and look at him directly. It was as if
he had chosen a younger version of himself to appear. Dark curly hair accented a fair complexion, which further
enhanced dark eyes that currently possessed a playful glint.
He was dressed in a brightly colored shirt
topped by a hard, white tubular collar. Over the shirt he wore a sporty sack
suit jacket. When her gaze traveled
back to his face, she almost laughed out loud, out of nervousness or humor she
wasn't quite sure, when she noticed the ‘What the hell?' expression on his
"I send this spirit to you. For his want on this plane is no more,"
Giles continued, making the sign of a cross over the sandalwood with the
athame. Once that was done, he began to
grind the sandalwood with the pestle.
Buffy was staring at the ghost next to
Alex, but Alex was afraid of breaking the spell so she didn't say
anything. She shrugged her shoulders
instead, and Buffy smiled, setting Alex a little more at ease.
The room shimmered once more, and Alex
wasn't surprised to find another spirit had appeared. This time Cleda Carpenter wasn't a shadow, she was a petite blond
woman with an hourglass figure. She
wore a dress that had her corseted, and then padded in the buttocks, hips,
bosom and sleeves to exaggerate the wasp-waisted effect.
Obediah moved away from Alex's side to
stand next to the spirit of his late wife.
With their hands clasped and smiles on their faces, they shimmered once
more and disappeared from sight.
"That was easy," Buffy said.
"It was wasn't it?" Giles agreed.
"So that's it?" Angel asked.
"My home is my own again?" Alex asked.
"Just in time for Christmas," Buffy said,
taking Alex's arm. "And speaking of
They had just finished a late supper and
Buffy was packing to leave. "That is
very sweet, Buffy, but I just can't," Alex said, feeling happy and miserable
all at the same time.
As Buffy shoved one of her sweaters into
her bag, she said, "Are you sure? We'd
love to have you."
Sitting round and having holiday with
Buffy, Giles, and Angel sounded like a wonderful time, but Alex just couldn't
do it. It felt too much like intruding
to her. "It'll be nice to be home
alone," Alex said. Feeling a little
guilty about her little, white lie.
"You're sick of us aren't you?" Buffy
asked, feigning hurt.
Alex laughed. "Oh, that's it. I'm sick
of the most pleasant, non-fake people I've met since I've been here. You caught me," she said, putting her hands
up in surrender. "I confess."
"Well, put it that way..." Buffy
smiled. Alex was glad she had met her,
and she was going to miss her, but it was for the best.
"But like you said, we're only a couple
hours apart. I see plenty of shopping
and lunches in our future. And maybe one
day I'll work my way toward you and you can show me your neck of the woods."
"I wouldn't exactly call it my neck. California would be my true home, but my
home away from home? You bet!" Buffy
Knowing that she was moments away from
being alone at her request, Alex couldn't help but ask, "Are all three of you
leaving at the same time?"
"Actually, no. Giles suggested I stay one more night to be on the safe
side. He and Angel are going to head
back tonight. We have two cars, so I'm
going to drive back by myself in the morning," Buffy said.
"It'll be Christmas."
"Yeah, I know."
"It has been a pleasure," Giles said. Buffy had walked Angel out to the car and
Giles was trying to find a way to say goodbye to Alex.
"It has hasn't it?" Alex said. "It's going to be a little weird not having
you... all of you around anymore."
Awkward wouldn't describe the moment. There was so much Giles wanted to say, and
so much he couldn't. "Buffy said that
you have a shopping and lunch partner for life."
Laughing, Alex said, "And I couldn't ask
for a better one."
"If things were perhaps different..."
Alex stopped him by placing a finger
against his lips. "You are a wonderful
man, Rupert Giles. I've never met
anyone like you and I doubt I ever will."
"I'm afraid of ruining that," Giles
"I don't see how that's likely."
"With what I do... You've seen... and there's much more to it than banishing
ghosts. It's not a life... I wouldn't
want to drag you into something like that."
"I don't drag easily," she said. "How about taking it slow and seeing what
"Are you open for lunch after the
holidays? In the New Year?"
Giles couldn't think of a better way to
begin a New Year. "Yes," he said, more
as a sigh than anything else. "Lunch in
the New Year sounds like a splendid idea."
And while he was debating on what to do
next, Alex leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. He then did what he felt like doing since
the first day he had met her: Giles grinned like a schoolboy.
"Lunch it is then," she said as she opened
the door. Giles picked up his bag and
walked outside, his goofy grin spanning ear-to-ear.
Buffy was glad to be home, home for the
holidays even. She giggled at her own
little joke, an example of just how tired she was. But all in all it had worked out okay. Alex's ghost had taken up some time, but there'd been shopping
which led to gifts for both Angel and Giles.
Maybe not as many as she would've liked, but it would have to do.
The best thing? Alex and Giles were going to be having lunch. It wasn't much, but it was a start and that
made Buffy happy. And it gave Giles
something to look forward to.
Giles had told her that John and Martha
were busy with the Christmas preparations and the sound of joy in his voice was
enough to make her Christmas Day that much better.
Making sure she had all her things, gifts
included, Buffy slammed the car door and walked toward the house. She heard the Christmas music before she had
even opened the door.
"Welcome home, Buffy," Giles said,
greeting her at the door and taking her bags.
Garlands, evergreens, berries, blossoms,
and candles decorated the hall. Giles
led her toward the living room. Angel
was standing by a tall, well-decorated, Christmas tree.
Buffy was overwhelmed by the beauty of
it. "I think that's the prettiest tree
I've ever seen."
"Look closer," Angel said, and that's when
Buffy realized just how custom it was.
The live pine tree was covered from top to
bottom with red and white lights.
Silver garland wrapped the tree, and the garland was adorned with silver
ornaments. Spread throughout the tree,
and hard to miss if you weren't looking for them, were teeny-tiny stakes.
"You're kidding!" she said, laughing. "You put stakes on our Christmas tree?"
"Seemed like the thing to do," he said,
smiling that quirky little smile of his that could make her heart melt. "I got this for you." He handed her a small box that was adorned
with a ribbon, but no wrapping paper.
"Presents already?" She needed to find
Giles. She didn't know they would be
exchanging already and she wanted to go and get Angel his. "I need to go and get mine," she said, turning
"Stay," Angel said, the tone in his voice
making her stop in her tracks.
She pulled the ribbon and it came of the box with ease. "Little box," she said as she removed the
inner box from the outer, patting the velvety feel of it. "Soft."
"Open it," Angel said.
"You sound more excited than I do!"
Buffy opened the box and smiled. She was holding an antique-looking white
gold, diamond and emerald cross pendant.
"Angel... It's beautiful."
"I figured almost ten years was long
enough to wait before giving you another one," he said.
Another time and another place quickly
rose to the surface of her mind.
are you?" Buffy asked. Whoever he was,
well let's just say he had a tendency to show up at all sorts of weird times.
just say... I'm a friend," he said, and then started walking away.
well, maybe I don't want a friend." Oh,
good, Buffy. Nice comeback.
back, he said, "I didn't say I was yours." And then he turned and started
walking away again. He had outwitted
her, and then smiled about it. Stupid smile
she could feel all the way down to her toes.
he was gone from sight, she remembered the box she'd been holding in her
hand. After she opened it, she was more
than a little surprised to find that it contained a silver cross and chain.
"Do you like it?"
The sound of Angel's voice, her Angel's
voice, brought her back to the here and now.
And after she launched herself into his arms, and wrapped her legs
around his waist, she began kissing his face and neck.
"Thank you," she said, knowing she was
repeating herself, but she didn't care.
"I love you. It's
beautiful. Did I mention I love you?"
Laughing he said, "Maybe once or twice."
"It's something I never would have
expected and it's just..."
She nodded her head enthusiastically. "Yes!"
"If I'd known it would have this effect I
would've done this a long time ago," he said.
"I got you and Giles presents too. I'll go get them - and Giles. Okay?"
"One thing first?" She turned around and lifted up her
hair. "Will you put the necklace on
me?" And after a few spine-tingling
kisses, Buffy was wearing what was probably the best Christmas present she had
"Where'd you get this?" Angel asked, on
the verge of being speechless.
"In London," Buffy said. "One of the times Alex and I were
shopping. I mentioned that you liked to
draw, and she knew of a book store that sold old sketch books." She shrugged her shoulders. "I wanted to do something special for
you. The man that worked there was nice
and really helpful."
"This is great, Buffy," he said.
"They're not original sketches, but copies
of originals. Thomas Cole, who I've
never heard of, but Michelangelo and Da Vinci I have. Didn't Tom Hanks play him
in a movie or something?" She shrugged her shoulders. "You really like it?" she asked.
"Enough that I might need to start
rethinking the entire Christmas philosophy," he said. He kissed her softly and after putting his arm around her waist,
drew her closer to him.
"Okay, Giles, open yours," Buffy said.
Giles had been sitting quietly by the
tree, sipping tea. "Which one first?"
he asked, holding up two different gifts.
One a red envelope adorned with a bow, and the other a green gift bag
the size of a cereal box.
"Open the bag first," Buffy said. "That one is from Angel."
"Yeah," Angel said. "That one's from me."
The thought of shopping for Buffy had made
Angel nervous, but shopping for Giles?
That had put being nervous into an entirely different category.
As Giles pulled the white tissue paper out
of the bag, he said, "I really didn't expect anything..." And then he stopped and looked up at
Angel. "Thank you." He hadn't even finished opening his gift
"See if you thank me once you see what it
is," Angel said.
Giles pulled out an old, worn and green
hardcover book. "Michael Fairless - Complete Mystical Works - 1933." He just stared at the book. Angel was beginning to wonder if Giles was
going to say anything, but then he did.
"This is a wonderful gift, Angel.
I will eagerly add it to my current collection. Where on earth-?"
Angel knew the question was coming, so he
was prepared. "On eBay."
"You're not serious?" Giles asked.
"What? That Angel used eBay?" Buffy asked.
Giles shook his head. "No, Buffy, that he found such an item as
this on eBay."
"Oh, you'd be surprised what you'd find on
eBay," Angel said, not even close to expanding on the accuracy of that
"I suppose I would," Giles agreed.
"Open mine," Buffy said, hardly able to
keep the excitement out of her voice.
Angel hadn't heard her sound that happy in a long time. "You're going to like it."
Giles peeled open the envelope and pulled
out two tickets. Angel didn't know what
they were for, Buffy wouldn't tell him, and so the surprise was not only for
"Two tickets to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?" he asked.
"Look where it's at," Buffy said.
Wimbledon Theatre, London, February 18th, 2007."
"I'm sure Alex would love to go!" Buffy
said, clapping her hands together like the over-enthused cheerleader Angel
suspected she used to be. At least now
he knew why she hadn't told him what she had gotten Giles for Christmas.
Angel was waiting for Giles to start
telling Buffy all the reasons why he couldn't go: it wasn't right, Alex
probably wouldn't go, it probably wouldn't work out in the long run, but he
never did. He simply said, "Thank you,
Buffy. This is a wonderful gift. I'm sure Alex and I will enjoy the show
Giles stood up and came over to give Buffy
a hug, Angel easily stepping aside and giving up his place for the former
"I wanted something before February
because I figured that was too long to wait," she said. "But I figured the Pussycat Dolls and Rhianna
wasn't exactly your cup of tea."
"That would be an accurate statement,"
Giles said. "I have no idea who those
"I'm pretty sure they're all female,"
Angel said, shaking his head. "Beyond
that? Absolutely no idea."
Grinning, Giles said, "Now, it is my
turn. Shopping has never been one of my
‘things', for lack of a better term, so coming up with the perfect gift for you
each individually was nearly impossible."
"Nothing's impossible for you. You're Giles," Buffy said.
"That's very sweet, Buffy, but even I have
my limits." Giles sounded flustered for
a moment, but then continued, "Here," he handed a plain white envelope to
Buffy, "this is for both of you."
Buffy handed it to Angel. "You can open it?"
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"More than," she said, smiling.
Angel tore open the envelope and found a
white piece of paper. After looking at
it closer, he found that it was some sort of itinerary. "We're going somewhere?" he asked.
"We're going somewhere?" Buffy repeated,
yanking the paper out of his hand. "Friar's Rest Guest House."
"It's not much," Giles said. "But I heard the place is lovely and you two
deserve some time together. The offer
is valid until after the New Year, so you can take your time planning. It will be all expenses paid, and just the
amount of privacy you both shall need, er, for whatever reason."
Buffy flung her arms around Giles neck,
and after a small grunt of pain, she let him go. "Sorry," she said.
Giles straightened up slowly and then stretched
his back. "I'll accept that as a thank
you," he said.
Angel was never one for hugging, and even
though it was the season for it, he still couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, he offered his hand, and Giles
accepted it. "Thank you," Angel said.
Giles answer was a heartfelt, genuine
smile. "Now, I know it is a little too
early for supper, but I believe there is a batch of Christmas cookies that
Martha has made especially for Buffy, her contribution to the holiday..."
"Any chocolate ones are mine!" Buffy said,
excitedly, beating them both out of the room.
"I'm not getting in her way," Angel said.
"Smart man," Giles agreed.
+++ End +++
Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday's to
yours from ours at Project Paranormal.
May the New Year bring you nothing but happiness, health, and
Oh, and I'm pretty sure Angel, Buffy, and
Giles are wishing you the best too! If
it weren't for all of you that are still happily reading stories about them ten
years later, they wouldn't be here anymore.
to Jo and Darkstar for the beta goodness, and to my betas in waiting Spiralleds
and Mommanerd. They're always there for
me no matter what.
Crippen, T.G. Christmas and Christmas Lore.
London: Blackie & Son Limited, 1923.
Hole, Christina. The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.
New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996. ISBN 0-76070-228-4.
Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem.
A Dictionary of Superstitions.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-282-916-5.
Pickering, David. Dictionary of Superstitions.
London: Cassell, 1995. ISBN 0-304-345350.
Ghost Story inspired by this website:
Care to shop? http://www.anyahindmarch.com/newhome.aspx
Here's the spell I used and
You can get your own Vesta
powder here: http://www.magickrose.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=1271
Here's what Wikipedia has to
say about the Athame: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athame
How our ghost and shadow
Go here if you want to take a
Quote taken from www.buffyworld.com
when Buffy got her first cross necklace from Angel.
You too can own Giles'
book! It's on e-bay!
Or go to a concert: Tickets
And thank you to Garnigal, a
fellow Project Paranormal writer who offered up this suggestion on Giles'
gift. Thank you!
If you want to hook up with
Buffy and Angel on their little getaway: