Tuesday, December 2, 2003



Law books smelled of old glue and the dryness of paper. It wasn’t as bad as the smell of age and gravitas of Wesley’s office, but it was enough to bring home each and every day how different Gunn’s life was now.

His office smelled like pine today. Wesley glanced at the wreath hanging around the doorknob as he and Angel strolled in. “You, as well?”

“Me, you, everybody.” Not that Gunn was really complaining. He had no problem with Santa Lorne, although he had to draw the line at the button Lorne had tried to get him to wear. Red and green was never—never—gracing his lapel.

“He’s everywhere.” Angel took the only remaining chair, grimacing an apology as Wesley perched on the edge of Gunn’s desk. “He’s plotting with Harmony to make a blood-flavored eggnog!”

Gunn and Wes exchanged a look. “How. . .thoughtful of him,” Wes said diplomatically, while Gunn tried not to make a Mr. Yuck face. “With any degree of success?”

“Not yet, and I—Eve. Welcome back. Have a good Thanksgiving?” No one could mistake Angel's tone for sincere.

Eve sauntered into the office, employing that incredible talent of hers to make everyone in the room but herself and Angel superfluous. “You definitely like to make waves, don’t you, Champ?”

“Well, you know me,” Angel returned, leaning back in his chair. “I’m a wave-maker. What are the Senior Partners upset about this time?”

“Oh, not the Senior Partners. They couldn’t care less about a giant tree adorned with the symbols of rebirth and holiness.”

“Oh, good. Let me just call Lorne, and he’ll get the créche scene set up.”

Eve’s smile went tiny. “Sure. Nothing like a little nativity to brighten up those long winter days. But you might want to have a care about your employees, Angel. Scuttlebutt’s not too thrilled with the way you’re handling what is traditionally a gloomy time of the year for us.”

“Great.” Angel smiled, retroactively warming to Lorne’s idea. If Eve was opposed to it, it had to be a good thing, right? Noticing Wes and Gunn’s distinct disinterest, Angel rose. “Why don’t we take this to my office? Gunn, Wes.”

They filed out, leaving Gunn and Wes looking at each other bemusedly. Conversations with Eve always went like that, but Gunn wasn’t interested in trying to figure out—again—why he didn’t trust her, even after the almost-strangulation. “Man, there’s something wrong with a company that hates Christmas,” he said instead. “It’s the best time of the year!”

“Commercialism run rampant, convicts dressed in red velvet and false beads, dangling children on their knees? Blood-eggnog? Lets not forget Christmas carols repeated ad nauseam, either. Oh, yes, I can see how this would be a favorite of yours.”

Snorting, Gunn propped his feet up on his desk. “Bah, humbug to you, too. Nah, Christmas isn’t about all that. It’s about big ass trash-can fires you gather ’round, singing the hymns my mamma taught me. About takin’ a night off from hunting, since even the vamps celebrated Christmas Eve.”

Scrounged up feast of whatever they could buy, no one complaining that it wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t as fancy as the stuff some of the folks they saw walking down the street had. Presents that were made or bought through pawning your own stuff. The gifts were nothing special, no toys or fancy brand-name sneakers, and were most often weapons, but they meant something. Each and every item, every moment, was worth more because they had so little else.

And here he sat in a leather chair that cost more than the entire gang used to spend on food in a year, dressed in tailored Armani from neck to feet, not to mention the shoes, looking at his collection of vintage Bandai toy robots, about to make plans with Wesley to have lunch at Vincenti’s—guaranteed to cost Wolfram and Hart a few hundred.

What would Alonna say if she could see him now?

Somehow catching his mood, Wesley’s cynical expression faded. “I was planning on being here, this Christmas,” he said, remembering awkward, downright painful family dinners and deciding there and then, that even the chance of seeing his mother didn’t make up for the dread he felt at the thought of facing his father again. He swallowed, then added diffidently “I don’t have a bonfire, but would a fireplace suffice?”

Wednesday, December 3, 2003