Purely Ornamental
by for Christina.

Faye wasn't one for holiday shopping - at least not the usual kind. While the others split off into groups to find their gifts, she had slipped away to loiter by the large Christmas tree in the department store's three-story entry hall for her own kind of browsing. Faye's gift to herself, the same as every year, would be a man that caught her eye, a matter which exasperated Diana to no end; sometimes, Faye thought, that was half of the appeal.

She stood as if examining the ornaments on the tree - this year's color scheme was blue and white - occasionally tapping one or another to maintain the pretense, and watched the droves pass by. A handsome blond man moved past her... no, not that one, she'd had a blond last year. Another man she spotted sitting on a nearby bench, arm around what seemed to be his girlfriend; Faye bit her lip in thought, then crossed him off the list as well - too much work for too little payoff. Slim pickings, she thought in dismay, faced with a crowd that seemed composed primarily of harried dads and teenage retail clerks. At this rate, I might as well just call the pizza man.

But that would be unthinkable, she finally resolved. If nothing else, she had a reputation to maintain, and she hadn't gone to all the trouble of preparing for this annual ritual only to return home empty-handed. Her gifts to herself - a man for fun and Diana's inevitable frustrated indignation - went hand in hand.

Something brushed her hand just then, as she absently prodded an ornament over her shoulder with only the barest of feigned interest. Faye glanced behind her, prepared to give her most withering look of disdain.

Hello, jackpot.

The man who'd reached for the same ornament as Faye stood out starkly in a crowd of bustling suburbia, with hair as black as hers, and eyes to match; he wasn't tall, exactly, but he had presence and confidence enough to make that easily forgettable. "Excuse me," he said, and Faye caught two very important details in his words: the faintest hint of an accent, and a very familiar flirtatious inflection in his tone.

A slow smile spread across her lips. "That's quite all right," she purred. "I wasn't paying attention at all." She timed out the perfect coy pause before continuing. "Faye. Meade." She delighted in giving out Diana's last name for these occasions; it invariably led to some very awkward phone calls at the Meade home after the holiday season.

He gave her quite a dashing grin. Perhaps this year, Faye thought, she wouldn't even need a spell; things were starting off just swimmingly without supernatural assistance. "Damon. Smith. A pleasure, of course, to appreciate two extraordinarily lovely displays at once."

Faye laughed. "You like Christmas trees that much?" This was going to be too easy.

"Hm, no, but I am quite fond of ravens, you see." He nodded to the ornament where their hands had collided, and Faye noticed for the first time that it was a deep blue, with a glittery scene of black birds in the snow drawn on its front.

"Funny, I'm more of a cat person, myself," she replied nonchalantly, her hand "accidentally" brushing his arm as she lowered it from the ornament they were touching.

"Yes, funny. Ravens have been known to attack cats," he offered, every bit as nonchalant as she had been.

Faye frowned; the tone of this conversation was shifting far too quickly for her liking. "And cats enjoy eating birds, if I recall," she retorted sharply.

It was his turn to laugh now. "Smaller, simpler birds, of course; the corvidae family proves much too challenging, I believe."

She found herself feeling insulted despite his casual tone, and with an ever-increasing urge to set his undoubtedly expensive cashmere sweater - at least it had felt like cashmere when she'd brushed against it - on fire. Faye clenched her jaw ever so slightly, then resumed a pleasant, unaffected air. "I suppose I just don't have the time to watch that many nature documentaries," she finally said haughtily.

If her retort had affected him negatively, Damon showed no indication; on the contrary, he only smirked and shrugged carelessly. "Then again, the cat is known to put up quite a fight against all manner of larger predator, isn't it? Quite..." he seemed to search for a word. "feisty." He was definitely teasing her now, his dark eyes gleaming.

Oh, that was it. She hoped he kept a change of clothes in his car. Scratch that, she hoped he didn't. She hoped he'd freeze all the way home, wherever that was. Faye glared openly at him now while she gathered the energy for making fire; the Christmas tree would make the perfect cover for a freak electrical fire, with its aging lights and drying branches. A familiar tingle started at her fingertips, making its way slowly up her arms, intensifying -

He shifted and took a step past her. "As enlightening as this conversation has been," he said, "I'm afraid I must be going. I still need to find just the right gift for my little brother. Ciao." He continued walking, his infuriating grin sticking in her mind with every step.

Fire wasn't going to be enough now; Faye was seething. Her original plan, she decided, would be a much better punishment. Let him wake up tomorrow humiliated in an empty bed, and she would get her thrills to boot. She whirled around to face him - or rather, his back as it grew further from her with each of his steps - and quietly, calmly, began a familiar chant under her breath. Slowly, she began to undo the small braid she had made in her hair; the crimson velvet ribbon woven through it radiated potent energy as it unwound with the strands of her hair, and her power reached out for him, floating through the air between them like tendrils of an invisible fog. Shortly, he would turn around and march obediently back to her, and the rest would be history.

He did stop and turn around to look back at Faye, but something was wrong. She felt her energy around him, grabbing at thin air, ineffectual - it was as if he simply wasn't there. Damon ran a hand through his hair - not the hand that she had touched - and for the first time, she noticed a silver ring with a dull blue stone in it on his ring finger. She couldn't tell much about it from this distance, but she could tell it thrummed with an energy all its own - a fiery energy counter to her own, as if protecting from some kind of heat. She tilted her head inquisitively, rage fading away to intrigued curiosity.

Damon's expression shifted slightly, snide playfulness fading away to something like a grudging admiration. When he grinned at her again, she saw the briefest flash of fang. A vampire! Oh, of course. Faye couldn't help but grin back as he made his way to her once again; she'd never even seen an actual vampire before, much less had one.

"On second thought," he stated, holding out his hand, "I don't much like my little brother anyhow."

Faye quirked a flirtatious eyebrow. Pointedly refusing his hand, she slid up to his side and wrapped her arm around his instead. "I have some very annoying cousins to avoid, myself. It seems I could be learning more about ravens instead of waiting for their shopping to be done," she said with a self-satisfied smile.

"I find myself increasingly intrigued by cats," he replied, all cool indifference, but Faye heard the invitation in his voice loud and clear. They made their way through stores and shoppers, aimed for the parking lot outside, the real topic of their conversation growing increasingly less veiled along the way.

They passed a small book kiosk as they left, the display shelves sporting Christmas classics and ridiculous sentimental holiday stocking stuffers. Faye smirked at a prominently-displayed copy of "A Christmas Carol" before returning her attention to the vampire at her side. Well god bless us everyone, she thought laughingly.


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