I’m poor and own nothing.
Xander and Phoebe run into each other on Christmas Eve.
This is my entry for the Holiday Fic-A-Thon for ListraLee. Sorry it's so late.
I hate Christmas.
No, I mean I really hate Christmas.
In most households it’s a time of joy and laughter and family. Or at least that’s what the TV specials tell me. In the Harris household all it meant was a few more bottles to clean up the next morning and a night sleeping outside to avoid the shouting. Shouting if it was a good year. I prefer not to think of the bad.
But hey, water under the bridge, come and gone, it’s in the past and all that jazz. I can deal with that. Have been dealing.
Being sent to San Francisco to get information from the local underworld about the latest big bad to show up?
No problem. After all, bad guys don’t care if it’s a holiday. Besides I’m used to spending the holidays alone. Just another day to me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. It would bother the others.
When it was brought up in the last Council meeting that someone would have to go you could have heard a pin drop. All it took was one look at the girls’ faces. So I guess I wasn’t sent so much as volunteered. Semantics.
So ya, I can handle being away from the gang.
No. The reason I hate Christmas is behind me at this very moment. The most evil and vile thing in all creation. A mall on Christmas Eve.
Of all the people I bought for it was Giles who turned out to be the hardest to find something for. So when I heard about some new antique place in the mall I figured it was worth a try. Lord knows what possessed me to believe that a mall on Christmas Eve would be a quick trip. I should know better. It’s not like Giles will get the gift in time for Christmas now anyway.
“Bigger fool me I guess.” I mumble out loud as I shove the bag with the antique pocket watch into my jacket’s inside pocket.
Apparently I should have been watching where I was going because I looked up just in time to crash into a walking mountain of bags and packages. A slender form falls to the ground in front of me in a shower of parcels and rustling plastic.
“Ouch.” Was all the women said as she looked around apparently glaring at her fallen purchases. Blowing an errant brunette strand from her face she looked up and I met her eyes.
Gorgeous is the only thing that comes to mind as I offer her my hand.
“Can I have you?”
Damn it! Not again!
I love Christmas.
It’s just the absolute best time of the year.
The brilliance of the lights, the stunning decorations; you couldn’t find a season with a more beautiful ambience. All you need is for some snow to fall and it would be absolute perfect. I had my first white Christmas when I was in New York awhile back but there’s still something nice about being in San Francisco for the holidays. It’s home.
It’s a time for family and friends; joy and being just a little bit nicer to even a perfect stranger. Not that you shouldn’t be nice year-round. There’s just something about Christmas that makes the world seem better. Brighter.
When you deal with demons and warlocks and such on a regular basis having a little bit of bright in your life is a good thing.
I don’t even mind malls at Christmas time. I love them actually. Call me crazy but I save most of my shopping for Christmas Eve.
Some people would think about the crowds and cringe. Not me.
The hustle and bustle of the crowd moving from store to store. The kids waiting to have their pictures taken with Santa Claus. The challenge of finding the perfect gift. The atmosphere just seems more like Christmas to me.
Of course, it may have been smarter to have made a few trips to the car and drop off bags in between stores. That’s how I found myself loaded down with so many bags and boxes I could barely see let alone walk. And that top box was about to fall! Eyes fixed on my target I shift my weight trying to knock it back in place. There! Disaster adverted.
Or not. I wince as I hear the parcels hit the ground. At least there wasn’t anything too breakable in them. All right, maybe the wince was more from the stinging in my bum as it hits the concrete.
“Ouch.” Perhaps not my most articulate statement but it gets the point across. I can’t help but give the mutinous green box that caused this the evil eye. Frustrated I blow some hair out of my eyes and look up at the person I bumped into.
Wow. That’s all I have to say.
Dark hair, dark eyes, broad shoulders and under those baggy clothes you can tell he works out. Nice. Very nice. The eye patch would look silly on most people but works for him. He looks every bit the bad boy I used to go for back in the day.
It’s too bad that bright, hideously multicoloured shirt ruins the effect.
“Can I have you?”
Part of me thinks ‘did he really just say that?’
The other part goes ‘my thoughts exactly!’
Lord give me strength. Please let that burning in my cheeks not be noticeable!
With an embarrassed smile I correct myself. “I mean can I help you?”
She gives me this beautiful grin that’s part amused and part something else I can’t quite get. But she gave me her hand.
I’m not sure how to describe this without feeling corny. As our hands met it was like an electric spark passed between us. It was nice.
Then she gasped and pulled away, her eyes wide. I shifted uncomfortably from the look she gave me. It was like she was gazing right into my soul.
Then again, it wouldn’t be the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me.
His cheeks flamed red the instant he realized what he said. It was kinda cute really. And I’ll admit to being flattered. Not the smoothest line in the world but it’s nice to feel wanted sometimes.
The man shook his head and smiled at me. Though the smile on his face was embarrassed you could tell his face was one that was used to giving warm smiles. “I mean can I help you.”
I grin up at him knowingly. The look amused with a bit of sultry seductress thrown in for good measure. What can I say? He’s cute.
After holding his eyes for a second I take his offered hand. The moment our fingers touch I feel something pass between us. Like an electric current. For that moment I feel so connected to him. It’s a nice feeling.
It didn’t last long.
Suddenly I gasp as a vision hits me. Hard.
I see him. All of him.
I see a house, too filthy and filled with empty bottles and general feeling of… of… well I don’t know but it certainly makes the place more a house than a home. It’s Christmas time, though the only reason I could tell is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special playing on TV. There are no decorations, no tree, no gifts. There’s just a man and a woman passed out with bottles in their hands and a little dark haired boy watching Christmas specials with a look of awe and longing on his face.
The scene changes and the boy is a year older, about seven, coming outside carrying a bundle of something in his arms.
This time there are voices coming from the house. There’s a family gathering for the holidays going on but the sounds are hardly that of holiday cheer and joy. The voices are raised and arguing and the sound of something glass breaking against the wall echoes through the night.
The kid throws his bundle out from under his arm and rolls out his sleeping bag. With a heartbreaking look back at the house the boy slips into the bag and squeezes his eyes shut tight.
The scene repeats over and over with little variation, only the boy getting older. The sleeping bag seems to become something of a tradition and eventually he doesn’t even bothering trying to have a family Christmas, heading outside earlier and earlier until he finally spends all of Christmas day alone in the back yard. I felt my heart break when sometimes he’d come outside with a black eye or a limp.
Finally the vision shows the man as he is now. He’s in an airport apparently waiting for a flight with an older gentleman.
“Are you sure you don’t mind working over the holidays?” The older man asked with a crisp English accent.
The man just shook his head. “Na, this is important right?”
“It is.” The English man confirmed. “Even still-”
“Giles I volunteered so the girls could spend Christmas as a family. I don’t mind doing the grunt work.”
“Your family too.” The older guy said as he put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Xander, I know I may not have said it before, and after Sunnydale I probably should have, but I’m proud of you son. I well… I-”
He cut him off and gave the older man a hug. “I know. Me too.”
Then the vision was over and I was staring up at the man, Xander apparently, eyes wide as I try to process what I’ve seen.
“Are you alright?” I ask as I look down at the woman trying to figure out what’s going on.
After a second she smiles that smile people give when they’re trying to hide something. That’s alright. We all have our secrets. Who am I to judge right?
She takes my hand again and I pull her to her feet. Brushing her hair behind her ears she smiles at me again.
“I’m fine, thanks.” She tells me. “Sorry about all this.”
I wave her off. “My fault. I should have been watching were I was going.”
“Let’s just say we should both pay better attention then?” She says with a smile.
“Deal.” I gesture to strewn packages. “Let me help you with your stuff.”
As she bends down I can’t help but take a minute and sneak a glance at her ass. How she got into those jeans may be an eternal mystery. Somehow I muster the strength to look away and bend down to help before she notices my stare.
Moments later I’m holding several bags and packages standing next to a dark haired beauty. The knowing grin she’s giving me makes me think that my covert skills may need some work.
“So... ah… where are you parked?” I ask
The woman’s grin is still in place as she replies. “This way.”
She walks off and my eyes lock on her swaying hips. What can I say; nobody accused me of being a quick learner.
“Are you alright?” Xander asks and I realize I’ve been staring for awhile now.
I smile up at him and hope it’s reassuring enough he doesn’t ask. Trying to explain to a guy that you recoiled from his touch because you had a vision about him never seems to go over well. They tend to think you’re nuts. Go figure.
He’s still offering his hand so that’s a good sign. Or he’s just polite. Of course that’s also a good sign really. I still feel that rightness as I take his hand and he pulls me up. I can’t help but notice how close we are and look away as I brush some hair out of my eyes. It’s all I can do to stop my cheeks from going pink as I smile at him.
“I’m fine,” I tell him. “Thanks. Sorry about all this.”
He stares at me and for a second I think he is going to ask what happened. I almost sigh in relief as instead he smiles and says, “My fault. I should have been watching were I was going.”
“Let’s just say we should both pay better attention then?”
He gestures to my fallen packages. “Deal. Let me help you with your stuff.”
“Thanks.” I say before bending down to pick up the nearest box. I know where his eyes are. I should pick it and move to the next one. Instead I pick it up as slow as possible without being obvious. I try to tell myself I’m not teasing.
It doesn’t take long until we both have bags and boxes in our arms. I give him a knowing grin to let him know I know. He squirms in front of me and I try not to laugh out loud.
“So... ah…” He stutters out. “Where are you parked?”
“This way.” I tell him before turning. I put a little extra sway in my hips as I walk towards my car. A pleased grin spreads across my face as I feel his eyes on my butt.
I finish putting the bags in her car and turn to look at the woman.
“There you go. My name is Xander by the way.”
“Phoebe.” She tells me. “Thanks for the help with the bags.”
I shrug. “It’s the least I could do after bumping into you.”
“Ah!” Phoebe tells me, wagging her finger in front of me with a playful grin on her face.
“Our mutual bumping.” I try to suppress a groan as I realize the innuendo that could go there. From the way her eyes are dancing she noticed too.
We stare at each other for a minute before we both burst out laughing.
“Ya, I should probably go before I get the other foot in there.” I tell her. “Bye Phoebe.”
“May be a good idea. Thanks again Xander.”
I turn and head for my rental. It’s a ways off but that’s alright, it’s a nice day for a walk. Besides I think something else will be occupying my thoughts for a while yet.
“Xander!” Phoebe calls out to me before I could get more than a few steps away. “Do you have any plans tonight.”
Ya, dinner alone in my hotel room. “No plans.”
She bites her bottom lip and asks. “Do you know a club called P3?”
“Not yet.” I say as I walk back up to her.
“Do you want meet me there tonight?”
“There you go.” He said as he put the last bag in my car.
“My name is Xander by the way.” Of course I already knew that because of the vision, but he doesn’t know that.
“Phoebe.” I say by way of introduction. “Thanks for the help with the bags.”
He just shrugs it off. Like helping someone out, even if it is only something as small as carrying some bags, is no big deal. “It’s the least I could do after bumping into you.”
Feeling a little playful I wag my finger at him. “Ah!”
“Our mutual bumping.” I try to suppress the urge to make a comment there. Especially when his eyes go all wide like that. It’s kind of cute.
We stare at each other for a minute before we both burst out laughing.
“Ya, I should probably go before I get the other foot in there.” He says as we calm down. A part of me is disappointed he’s leaving already. “Bye Phoebe.”
“May be a good idea.” I hear myself say. Shut up mouth! “Thanks again Xander.”
As he turns away I get my first view of his back. The backside is every bit as nice as the front. Like I said before nice, very nice.
“Xander!” There we go mouth. Keep going. You can do it. “Do you have any plans tonight.”
He gives me a warm smile. “No plans.”
I find myself nervously biting my lip as I ask, “Do you know a club called P3?”
His smile is infectious and I quickly find one playing on my own lips. All traces of nervousness are gone. “Do you want meet me there tonight?”
We didn’t give a time but I get to the club later than I’d have liked. It took me awhile to find something with solid colours to wear that was clean. That being that I didn’t. I had to make a stop at a Laundromat to clean the few non-eyesore clothes I brought with me. Still I think I ended up looking half decent in black pants and a deep red button up shirt.
Angel of all people bought them for me as a joke. They are more the style he would wear than my usual choice. Who knew the vampire had a sense of humour? Jokes on him though. In the words of Will Smith in MIB ‘you know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.’
The entrance to the club is strangely quiet. Enough so that for a minute I wonder if she was just playing with me before and I won’t see her again. I push my insecurities aside and head for the door.
There’s a doorman there. “I’m sorry sir, it’s a private party tonight.”
“Oh.” I say dumbly, my insecurities rushing back. “I thought I was supposed to meet someone here. I guess not though.”
The man gives me a sympathetic look. “Tough break man. There’s a new place down the way called ‘Caritas’ that’s supposed to be open tonight.”
I can’t help but grin. So this is where Lorne ended up. “Caritas huh?”
“Yeah. The basement level is super exclusive. I don’t know anyone who’s gone down there. The rest of the place is still amazing though.” He told me before mock whispering conspiratorially. “Just steer clear of the karaoke part. Some people should not be allowed near a microphone.”
“Thanks…” I leave a pause afterwards for the guy to fill in.
“Paul.” He told me and offers me a hand. “And it’s no problem man. “
“Xander Harris.” I introduce myself as I shake the man’s hand.
“Oh.” Paul says and he looks like a light bulb just went off in his head. “Phoebe’s guest. Head right in.”
I just stand there blinking at him trying to process what just happened. Paul laughs.
“Go on man. I’m not going to take you by the hand. It’d just be weird.” He pauses before grinning at me and adding. “And I don’t think Phoebe would appreciate it much.”
I laugh at myself with him for a second. Nodding my head at Paul I head into the club. The interior of the place is nice. More upscale than I’m used to. Then again after the Bronze most places would be.
It’s emptier than I’d have thought too. Of course Paul did mentioned something about a private party so I guess it would be. Even with such a small crowd I wonder where to start looking for Phoebe.
A second later that problem is solved for me.
“Xander! Over here!”
I smoothed out imaginary wrinkles from my dress and glance to the door for about the third time in the last couple minutes. Why am I so nervous? It's not like we set a time to meet or anything. He’ll be here. Really.
“Phoebe.” Piper said from here place on a sofa. “Stop pacing. You’re starting to make me dizzy.”
Pacing? I will my feet to stop. I hadn’t even realized I’d started moving.
“What’s going on?” Paige asked.
“Going on? Nothing’s going on. Really.” Smooth. Now they’ll know something’s up for sure.
“I know that dress.” Piper told me, a knowing look in her eyes as she gestured to the little black number I’m wearing. “That’s an ‘I’m dressing to impress dress.’ Who’s the guy?”
I broke. Keeping a secret, even one that wasn’t necessarily a secret, is not my strong suit. “Xander.”
Piper smiled satisfied with herself. “Xander huh?”
“Is he cute?” Came from Paige.
“No. I mean yes, but no!” I protest. “It’s not like that.”
“I mean it.” Face it girl. If you can’t convince yourself you’re not interested you’re not going to convince them.
“We believe you.” Paige told me though her tone clearly spoke otherwise.
“It was a vision.” My sisters tense up and sit straighter. All traces of playful teasing are gone.
“End of the World?”
“Think I pretty much had it topped at end of the world.” Paige said turning to Piper.
“None of the above.” I say. “It was Christmas.”
My sisters both look at me incredulously and say together, “Christmas?”
“Christmas.” I confirmed. Feeling a little silly the moment I’d said it. “Let’s just say Xander’s never had a good Christmas before. He doesn’t even care that he’d be spending it alone. That’s just not right! Everyone should have a nice Christmas!”
Piper stared at me for a long moment. “So you invite him to our Christmas Eve party for our friends and family.”
“Friends, family, people we’re vaguely associated with. I don’t even know half the people in here.” Paige pointed out.
Piper rolled her eyes at our younger sister but conceded. “Ok, you may have a point.”
“So when do we get to meet Romeo?” Paige asked me.
“Sweety,” Piper interrupted. “You don’t wear your little black dress and pace over a guy you just want to keep company.”
“So spill.” Paige said eagerly. “When?”
Sighing I tell them. “I don’t know. We didn’t set a time.”
“I’m sure he’ll be here. It’s not that late y-”
“Xander!” I exclaim, ignoring my sisters. I wave at him standing at the entrance. “Over here!”
I made my way over to Phoebe and my higher brain functions just shut down.
“Wow.” I say smoothly. “I mean… ah… I… you look…wow.”
A woman on the couch laughs. “And another dress kills a man’s brain cells.”
“You look great Phoebe.” I tell her, the woman’s comment having snapped me out of my daze.
She tucks some hair behind her ears and smiles coyly at me. “Thanks.”
I don’t know how long we stood there smiling at each other. It didn’t seem as odd to me as it probably looked.
“Don’t mind us.” Another woman said. “Enjoy your own world.”
And the spell was broken. Phoebe bit her lip and looked down before sending the woman a mild glare.
“Xander.” She said turning to me. “These are my sisters. The one on the couch is Piper and the other is Paige.”
Phoebe turned back to her sisters. “Piper, Paige. This is Xander. We’re going to dance.”
With that she took my hand and led me to floor. A chill runs down my spine and I try not to gulp too audibly as I allow her to pull me along. A fast song is playing. That is a problem for me. I dance like a spastic chicken.
Normally this wouldn’t bother me. I would just go out and have a good time, what every body else thinks be damned. For some reason that’s not going to fly tonight. Who am I kidding? I just don’t want to look like a fool in front of Phoebe.
Thankfully fate intervenes and a slow song began to play just as we were about to start dancing. This I can handle.
As I pull her close and feel her body against mine and breathe in here perfume I realize something. Maybe I spoke too soon.
Slowing I relax into the swaying motions of the dance and Phoebe rests her head against my chest.
“This is nice.” She says softly.
And I got to admit it. This is nice. Maybe I could learn to like Christmas.
“Yeah,” I tell her. “Yeah it really is.”
“Hubba, Hubba.” I hear Paige say as Xander makes his way over to us. That’s something I’ll agree with. He looked cute in that hideous shirt, wearing actually nice clothes… well I have to stop myself from licking my lips.
“Wow.” He says blankly and I give a wicked smile. Men are so easy. “I mean… ah… I… you look…wow.”
“And another dress kills a man’s brain cells.” Comes from the peanut gallery on the couch.
“You look great Phoebe.” He tells me as he finally comes out of his daze.
“Thanks.” I play at tucking some hair back, if only to keep my hands occupied for the moment. I can feel my cheeks pink at the compliment.
Then he smiles that warm infectious smile at me again and I can’t help but return it with one of my own. I feel that connection again. We aren’t even touching this time but it’s still there. It’s so nice. I don’t want the moment to end.
Of course that’s when one of my sisters have to butt in.
“Don’t mind us.” Paige says. “Enjoy your own world.”
With the figurative spell broken I bite my lip and send a glare to Paige. She just looks at me innocent as can be.
“Xander. These are my sisters.” I’m proud not to be gritting my teeth. “The one on the couch is Piper and the other is Paige.””
“Piper, Paige.” I say as I turn back to my sisters with a glare. Then I give them a wry grin. “This is Xander. We’re going to dance.”
Before they had a chance to say anything I take Xander’s hand and start to lead him to the dance floor. I love to dance. A fast song is playing and I hope Xander is a guy who can keep up with me.
As we reach the floor I see Chris standing away from the crowd. He grins at me and flicks his wrist. Suddenly the music changes and a slow soft beat comes through the speakers. My eyes go wide as I realize he changed it to a slow song. That’s not the neurotic, demon obsessed Whitelighter I’ve come to know.
Before I can ponder too much on this odd turn I feel Xander’s arms going around me, pulling me close. The longer we danced the closer our bodies got, and they were pretty close to begin with. As I lay my head on Xander’s chest I think I may just have to thank Chris one day.
I don’t know how long we’ve been dancing. Frankly I don’t really care either.
Closing my eyes I sigh softly. “This is nice.
My heart nearly skips a beat when I hear him say. “Yeah. Yeah it really is.”
Like I said before; I love Christmas.
“Huh.” Paige comments with a grin. “Wonder if she got what she wants for Christmas.”
I follow her gaze to see Phoebe dancing with a dark haired man. My eyes go wide as I recognize him.
Casually I make my way over to Chris where he sits at the bar with his eyes firmly on the dance floor as well. I’m not really sure what to make of the young Whitelighter. He says he is from the future and I believe that. I even believe he’s here to save Wyatt like he says. I can’t say I trust him all that much though. He’s done too many questionable things. I guess you could say I trust his goals not his methods.
He’s always so focused on his mission, never taking any time to relax. But right now he just looks… content I guess is the closest word. I’m not sure what to make of that.
“Leo.” He greets me with a nod in my direction before returning his gaze to the dancers.
“Do they realize the slow song ended five minutes ago.” I say as way of breaking the ice.
“Probably not.” The little mischievous grin on his face does not go unnoticed.
In other words, to hell with subtle. “Is that who I think it is dancing with Phoebe?”
“Does she know who he is?”
“What’s a guardian of the Hellmouth doing here?” I ask, though I don’t really expect him to know. Maybe I should talk to the other Elders?
Shaking my head I level a look at him. “Are you going to give me more than one or two word answers at some point?”
“He’s picking up your sister in law apparently.” Chris says cheekily. “Better?”
I groan. This is not the Chris I’m used to dealing with.
He just laughs and turns back to looking over the dance floor. I walk around the bar and grab us a couple of beers. Ten minutes later I’m actually amazed we’ve managed to sit in companionable silence this long.
As we sit I can’t help but notice the knowing smile Chris has while he watches Phoebe and Xander dance. It’s probably the most unguarded and genuine expression I’ve seen on his face since he came into our lives. Makes me wonder what the future holds for the dancing couple.
I have to admit, they look good together.