Notes: Post-Chosen, post-Not Fade Away. Sequel to Counting the Days.
Disclaimer: Santa says they all belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
The Echo in My Soul
I had forgotten what Christmas morning could feel like.
Somewhere between the soul-consuming fear of losing Mom and Dawnie and the half-alive despair of resurrection, the grinding desperation of the struggle against the First and the grief and separation… I really had forgotten.
Or maybe what I forgot was that I could feel this way.
Isn’t that weird? I mean, I used to be the poster girl for gifts, both the getting and the giving.
Now that I stop and really think about it, I can still remember what it was like, once I understood that Christmas meant pressies. Even if I had forgotten, I’ve still got Dawn to show me. She’s always a little quivering ball of anticipation, watching the tree and noting every little change in the stacks of presents there.
Mom used to tell about this one year, before I really understood Christmas, about how my eyes got really wide, and how I was almost afraid to open the presents. At first, anyway. I must have gotten over it by the next year, because what I really recall is Mom teasing me about ripping into the paper and tossing it every which way.
But eventually kids grow up… well, except for Dawn. And one Christmas I realized that after all the presents were opened and the ribbons and bows cleared away, there was a kind of… let down. After all the frenzied shopping and hopeful anticipation, once everything was done, it was done, like Christmas just stopped, and all that was left was football on television. It was weird and disappointing.
Then came being the Slayer, and the possibility of death lurking behind every tree in every graveyard. Knowing every day might be my last – that I might not make it to see the next Christmas – was really not the way to build self-esteem and confidence, never mind Christmas spirit. It was a little easier once my mother found out, because at least I had someone to celebrate my survival with, and it became something to be thankful for.
It became a gift. And eventually, I gave that gift away, because I loved the world and I loved my friends, and my sister, and I would have done anything to save them. So it was a gift of love, like all the best gifts.
If I had ever mentioned this, Spike wouldn’t have known whether to strut and preen that he was right, or be furious at me for proving him right by dying.
So, yeah. I’d almost forgotten I could feel this way, that I could feel the wonder of knowing that everything I wanted was there in front of me, and the joy of giving, and the overwhelming love…
I’ve done the impromptu musical number thing, and this is just like that, only better.
Everything I’m thinking and feeling today is tied to Christmas somehow, despite the fact that it’s still months away.
Anya played all kinds of Christmas and holiday music in the Magic Box, trying to encourage people to buy things all through December. Was it before Mom died or after I came back? I’m not sure now, but I do remember researching… something around the table and kind of half-listening to the music. And then the music stopped, but Anya didn’t change out the disc.
“The CD’s over,” I said, without glancing up from my book.
“No, it’s not,” was Anya’s response. “Just wait.”
After another couple minutes of silence, the voices started to sing again, only it was a cappella this time. The sweet sound, light and soft and pure, pulled me away from my reading, and I saw that I wasn’t the only one affected; Willow and Xander were listening closely as well. Tara’s eyes were closed, and she wore one of her tiny smiles.
It was beautiful and moving and, as jaded by the world as I sometimes felt, I got a lump in my throat just listening to it.
And that song… that’s how I feel right now. It’s not even close to Christmas, but that’s how I feel. I am… bursting with feeling, which is strange and wonderful in itself, when just this morning I had resigned myself to spending the rest of my days in a dull grey haze of duty; existing, but never quite living.
In some way that I wasn’t about to question, I had known that Spike had come back from dust, and that knowledge had given me hope. Maybe this time, I could do it right, we could do it right. In a fanciful moment, I thought that the fire that had burst around our hands had connected our souls, and that was why I could feel him… or at least, have that echo of him. But then, after nearly a year of trying to find him, of trusting in Angel only to be betrayed once more, I had felt him die again.
And I hadn’t felt much of anything after that, except for empty.
As much as I’d wanted it to, hope hadn’t quite died with him.
Hope knocked on the door this morning. And all at once, I remembered Christmas and joy and love.
Because now… I can open the door to my room and look in and see him there sleeping. I can tiptoe in and run my fingers through his platinum curls. I can see each angle and hollow of his face and know it’s not a memory anymore, it’s real.
Spike is alive. He’s whole and undead and he’s here, and beyond that, not much matters.
Spike is alive.
How can I keep from singing?
December 22, 2007
© randi (K. Shepard), 2007