The Twelve Days Of Christmas - Day One
written by Karen Jephson


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: After Season 7.
Summary: The gangs' still homeless. And it's getting to that time of the year.
Thanks: To Gail. Your insight and ability to see the detail where it's not is always valuable.
Dedication: To Gylzgirl, for all your great ideas. To Heidi, who foolishly planted the idea in my head.
Author's Notes: Ironically, a lot of the stories happen to have several of Gileswench's requirements for her annual Winter fic challenge, so this is my response to that.
Feedback Author: Karen Jephson
Author's Website: Behind Green Eyes


Talbot Benedict surveyed his kingdom with great satisfaction. Before him his treasures gleamed in the late afternoon sun, the pleasing mixture of whites, gold and green representing his own version of paradise. The servants moved quietly about, silently fulfilling the desires of his guests before they'd even voiced their requests. Nothing above a whisper in his world; quiet, peacefulness, perfection.

Talbot winced at the sound of something smashing overhead. He did not need to investigate the source of the noise. It could only originate from one area in the building. It always originated from there. And he was heartily sick of it. Fortunately, at that moment the cure to his woes had just entered the lobby. Fortunately for him, not for his intended victim. Moving forward purposefully, he rushed to intercept the gentleman striding confidently across the floor, more confidently than Talbot remembered him from previous visits.

"Mister Giles!" Talbot almost shook his head and tutted as the gentleman in question paused and turned toward him. Such a pity, letting himself go that way. Becoming. Americanised! "Mister Giles, it will never do."

Surely Talbot misinterpreted that look of irritation on his guest's face. "Evening, Benedict. What won't do this time?"

"This time!?" Talbot paused, alarmed at the high-pitched squeal emitting from his mouth. He never squealed, even at his most agitated. But then, he had never had reason to be truly agitated until THEY arrived. "This time, Mister Giles? This time and all the other times. May I remind you sir what kind of establishment this is?"

Talbot swore he heard 'again' under the other man's breath. But Mister Giles would never do such a thing. At least, the Mister Giles he used to know. "No Benedict, you do not. I am aware this is an hotel."

"Not just any hotel, Mister Giles. No indeed." How he hated that word. Hotels were those public hostelries that put up tourists, and had to advertise their wares. He was very proud to inform guests that his place had never had to do that. He much preferred the French version for this type of establishment. A 'Pension'. Much more elite. "Elite. Yes sir, it is an elite establishment. A service provided for only the most exclusive clientele."

"And where an American has not set foot across its premises since its inception. I do remember our discussion when we first arrived, Benedict." The rebuke was mild, but plainly stated.

"Yes, well," Talbot cleared his throat. Somehow this man was always able to make him feel like a recalcitrant schoolboy. Or worse, an employee. "Our guests are a specific group of people, except of course for the aid we provide the," he dropped his voice to a whisper, "Council." He wasn't sure why that particular group had carte blanche to the use of his hotel. Even in his position of maitre de, one he'd held proudly for twenty years, he had not been informed of the nature of the connection between the hotel and the Council.

Mister Giles sighed. "For which your, er, establishment is well compensated."

"Yes well," Talbot looked around, ensuring nobody was able to hear them. Such a messy subject. "After the, um, accident, it had been assumed nobody would be." he paused at the flint-like expression in the other man's eyes, "that is, nobody was expected to require the services of." he stuttered to a halt, almost quaking in fear at the rage directed toward him.

"I understand that you are still receiving your monthly stipend."

"Y-yes sir, but."

"The Council may be undergoing a..." Mister Giles paused, as if looking for the correct word, ".restructuring, but the reason for its being is still very much present." His lips twitched. "In fact, I can honestly say that it has never been more present."

"Y-yes, but."

"As we had business in England it made sense to make use of the facilities here, rather than to register at the more popular, and more open, hotels."

"Y-yes, but." It took Talbot a moment to realize he was not, in fact, being interrupted yet again. "But they are Americans!" He became alarmed as he realized he'd almost shouted. He looked around guiltily hoping nobody had heard him. "And they break things, and they do not know the word quiet, and, and." He paused, the list of their wrongdoings so great he did not know where to start.

A look of almost pity crossed the other man's face. "I understand. They can be rather, um, forceful. I will have a word with them, but I'm afraid that you will be stuck with us for a little while longer."

"A-a while longer?" A feeling of dread came over Talbot. "U-until when approximately sir?"

Mister Giles' lips twitched slightly as he turned away and moved toward he stairs. "Oh, I'd say after Christmas."

"Oh no!"

* * * * *

Giles did not resist the grin that grew. He hadn't known Benedict could speak that loudly. Pompous little prat, thinking he owned the hotel, rather than just being a glorified headwaiter. Still, he did feel sorry for the little man. For all of them. really.

It was hard to understand his family at the best of times, but being holed up with them for weeks at a time in such a place in this must be torture. His grin turned into a full smile at the thought.

By the time he'd reached the door to their suite however, he'd successfully removed any signs of amusement. Wouldn't do to let the others think they could get away with fully destroying the hotel and its guests' peace. The door opened before he could touch the knob. He raised his eyes at the young brunette standing before him.

"Hey, Giles. I saw you talking to Mister Benedict, so I figured I'd wait in here for you.

I swear it wasn't my fault this time. One of those creepy waiters ran into me as I was getting ready to go."

Giles lifted his eyebrow, noticing the slight look of guilt that crossed Dawn's face. "And who exactly was doing the running?"

"But - but that meant I was being noisy." Dawn paused as she realized her admission to a second infraction, "I-I mean he would have heard me coming. They should wear bells on or something to warn us guests that they're just around the corner."

"And yet, none of the other guests seem to manage to run into them."

"I yelled I was sorry after him!" Dawn's voice rose slightly, as if to show how loud her apology actually was.

Giles shook his head, draping his arm around her shoulder as he turned her back toward the suite. "And added more gray to Mister Benedict's rapidly receding hairline."

"Now that was Willow, not me," she frowned, "or maybe Xander."

"Both of whom were told not to mess with magic or exact revenge on poor Benedict without my approval," he smiled at the other occupant to the room, "Hello, love."

Buffy rose and met them halfway. Giles released Dawn as he wrapped her sister in a hug, savoring the warmth of her. "I can confirm Dawn apologized to the waiter. I heard her."

Giles giggled silently, not wanting the younger girl to believe she'd escaped punishment. "Fortunately, Benedict didn't, or else we would be evicted. Actually talking to the staff is not permitted."

Both women started laughing. Giles noticed that they were soon joined by others. He looked up to see Willow, Xander, Faith, and Robin had entered the room. He could only assume Kennedy was out shopping, again.

Dawn finally asked the question that the others obviously wanted an answer to and Giles had been dreading. "And how long before we can evict ourselves?"

Giles sighed, squeezing Buffy slightly before releasing her. He drew her to one of the sofas, inviting the others to sit. Once they were all settled, he looked across at them regretfully. "I'm afraid it's going to be a little while longer. I've just warned Benedict we may be here until Christmas."

Dawn's "Oh, no." was only slightly louder than the groans from the others. Xander nominated himself as their spokesman. "It's going to be kinda not Christmassy here, Giles. I know none of us actually have a home to go to this season, but surely there's gotta be somewhere better."

"Yeah," Willow chipped in. "What about your place? It's big enough for all of us, and I just realized I invited us there, and it's not very polite, and I'll shut up now." She wound down, embarrassed.

Giles had winced at the mention of his house. He'd opened it up for himself and Willow when he'd brought her to England to recover from her 'walk on the dark side'. Unfortunately, that had meant a fresh trace for the Bringers. "I'm afraid the Bringers were rather, um, enthusiastic in their search for me. It really is uninhabitable." Xander and Robin nodded in agreement. They'd both accompanied him on that rather painful journey. "The coven had talked about having a celebration there for you all, but unfortunately they don't celebrate Christmas."

"I know, they'd already told me," Willow shrugged, "but hey, we're all invited to a kick-ass Summer Solstice party."

"Yeah." Dawn's lack of enthusiasm was obvious.

"Dawn!" Buffy didn't bother hiding her irritation at her sister.

"I'm sorry." This was directed toward Giles after she realized her comment was a complaint directly at him.

He smiled across at her. "That's alright. I must admit, I'm not looking forward to spending the festive time here," he looked around the pristine, almost sterile room, broken only by a few of the gang's personal possessions lying around.

Faith shrugged. "Hey, best Christmas I had was during Sunnydale's one and only snowstorm. This year's gotta be an improvement of any other time."

Robin draped his arm casually around the dark-haired slayer. "We'll have to see about changing that over the next few years."

Giles wondered at the mixed emotions of joy and cynicism in Faith's eyes. She obviously wanted to believe Robin, but was too frightened to hope.

Xander clapped his hands together. "What the hey. We'll have the rockingest Christmas right here. We'll have our own private party, with punch and poppers." Giles shook his head. "Okay, not poppers, but streamers." Another shake of the head, "well, eggnog and food. Hey they do have Christmas dinners here, right?"

Giles nodded in agreement. "I remember one year I was here they had a lovely Turkey dish, with some pork. And as a special treat, we were allowed a treacle pudding for dessert."

Even Xander turned green. "Yeah. Treacle pudding."

* * * * *

He paused halfway down the alley, turning to ensure nobody had observed his diversion. Satisfied he had no witnesses, he pushed aside some boxes lined against a wall, spoke a few words in Latin, then brushed aside what had been solid bricks, but now had the texture of a curtain. Once he'd stepped through the portal, he said some more words in Latin, and waited for the bricks to solidify again. Turning on the torch in his hand, he gingerly picked his way through the debris, looking for the entrance. Fortunately, he'd cleared most of the pieces of building blocking the doorway the other day.

Most of the Council had been destroyed. He was grateful however, that Caleb had not included 'demolition expert' in his resume when hired by the First. Some parts of the building, and as such, many Council artifacts, remained intact. This was one of the reasons for returning to England. He needed to reclaim as much as possible before what remained of the Watcher's Council secreted it all away from the slayers. The lower levels of the basement had barely been damaged, thanks to the magic wards and reinforced floors. He'd been concentrating his search in those levels for the past few days. There were many precious items in this lower area, but he was looking for one in particular. He felt that this was the time, more than any other that it was needed.

* * * * *

"Mister Giles! It will never do!" They all paused in shock at the raised voice. It was a definite screech that time, and what was worse, it was loud enough to carry across the full length of the lobby.

"It wasn't me!" Dawn's denial beat her sister's accusing look, barely.

Giles turned to face an advancing Talbot Benedict. They looked on, fascinated, as he seemed to run toward them. "Evening, Benedict. I'm afraid we've just returned from a day trip." He'd decided to treat them all to a day away from London. They'd needed a break from business, and from the officious little man before them.

"Bad enough that you brought Americans into my establishment." Benedict hadn't acknowledged Giles' comment. He appeared to not have even heard him. "And that one of them is an adolescent."

"Hey! I'm beyond adolescent. I'm a teenager."

"Dawn." Giles was again interrupted.

"She talks to the staff, did you know that? Talks to them. And expects them to answer. And that, that." he pointed toward Xander, ".dared to ask one of the maids out!"

Xander shrugged. "Hey, she smiled at me. I figured she must be human."

"Xander," Willow groaned. "Honey, you know your track record with women. If she smiled she was probably a demon."

"Mister Giles!" Benedict's shout cut through the giggles. The other guests no longer feigned interest in other matters. They stared open-mouthed at the once unruffled provider of all their needs. "Do you have any idea what they brought in today? On your orders! How long it took my staff to clear away the mess they made. A disgrace, Mister Giles. An absolute disgrace. And from you of all people."

Xander and Dawn looked at their friend in awe. "Giles! Have you been a naughty boy?"

Willow caught Buffy's eye, silently inquiring as to what was going on. The blonde woman shrugged in confusion.

Giles sighed. "Very well, Benedict. I shall take it under advisement, however I am sure that even you are aware of the purpose of the delivery." He looked firmly down at the little man.

Benedict drew himself up as erectly as he could. "I am not a fool, Mister Giles, nor completely devoid of sentiment." Giles raised his hand as both Xander and Dawn opened their mouths to speak. "But that, that thing. Here!"

"Yes, Benedict. Here. Good evening." Cutting the other man off completely, he walked briskly toward the stairs, his shocked family rushing to keep up with him. They had never heard Giles treat anybody like that. Nor would he be drawn into what had happened, only telling them they'd see.

By the time they'd reached the door to their apartments, all but the three slayers were panting. "What's the hurry, Giles? Did you have a box of demon books delivered or something?"

Giles smiled. "Not exactly. I found something the other day, and I thought it might help to cheer the place up a little. And hopefully you lot as well." Turning the knob, he pushed the door open, allowing them all to look inside the room at what had been delivered. They all gasped in shock.

It almost touched the ceiling. It's width stretched to take up almost half the room. Furniture had been moved to accommodate it, leaving less space for the family to congregate. But none of them minded. The mixture of emerald and bottle green created a beautiful contrast against the stark whiteness of its surroundings. Its limbs looked strong and sturdy, able to support the necessary weight required. Its aroma filled the area, almost breathing life into the room. Around it lay boxes, waiting to be unpacked. A bit of silver here, a flash of shiny metal there, giving evidence to their contents. And atop this miracle something that drew all their eyes. The most perfect, most dazzling, silver star.

"Oh. My. God." Giles didn't think he'd heard Dawn speak so quietly. Her eyes were large as she walked slowly into the room.

"I don't think we ever had one that large." Kennedy pulled her girlfriend behind her, making her way toward one of the boxes on the floor.

"I've never seen one naked before." Faith followed the other slayer, shaking her head in wonder.

Robin smiled as he paused beside the Watcher. "She always manages to break everything down to her level. You gotta love her." Resting his hand on the other man's shoulder for a moment he too entered the room. "It'll be a new experience for you, Faith. Having to actually dress something."

The three adults in the doorway laughed as the slayer turned and gave her boyfriend a not so loving signal. Xander sighed. "No wonder Benedict had a kitten." He paused. "Actually, I think it was more like a full-grown cat. Way to go, Giles. Feeling more homey already." He patted the older man on his back.

Buffy sighed, leaning happily into her lover. "There's a reason you're the brains of this outfit. It's a perfect idea."

"Hey!" The other two adults looked at Xander. "This was why you took us away for the day."

Giles grinned. "It wouldn't be a surprise otherwise. Now, if we don't hurry, Dawn and Kennedy will have decorated the tree before we'd even picked up a decoration."

"Oh, no they don't." Buffy moved forward quickly. "Back off, you two. I still have seniority over the both of you."

Xander spied a smaller box sitting on one of the coffee tables. He walked over to investigate its contents. "Hey, mistletoe. That, I think, is my department."

Buffy snorted. "You have two women already with guys, two women who definitely would have better uses for that stuff, and my seventeen year old sister. I doubt you'll get much use out of it."

"Maybe he could use it with the smiling chamber maid." Dawn's acerbic tone was not missed by a few people in the room.

Xander walked over to her, gently ruffling her hair. "Nah. Once I saw past her smile, I realized she wasn't my type. She was actually a normal human being."

Kennedy spied her own target. "I'll do the lights."

Willow looked at her girlfriend with pity. "Uh, honey, the tree's kinda tall and, well, you're kinda."

"Short." Dawn's answer was blunt but without malice. "It's like Buffy saying she'd do it."

"I'll have you know I took care of the lights every year after Mom and Dad separated!"

"Only because Mom made you use the stepladder."

Faith finished unpacking the still wrapped baubles and decorations. Giles must have bought out an entire store. There were hangings of every shape, texture, and color. As well as normal tinsel, there was the kind that was still joined at one end, and beads in gold, silver and red. She wouldn't admit it, but one of her favorites was the double row of pearl beads with silk bows attached to the end. Sighing, she stood. "Kennedy and I'll do the lights. Other than Dawn, we're the most likely to break these things, and they're too pretty."

"Hey!" Both girls objected to the slight against their names. Dawn continued. "Buffy used to break more than me after we moved to Sunnydale."

"That's because I didn't know my own strength. And I was always trying to hurry to finish it so I could go do some slaying, and still be in time for those midnight sales."

Robin leaned down to Faith. "And how do you intend to reach the top? Want a boost?" He squeezed his hands against her waist.

"Or-or I could levitate you both up!" At Giles' expression, Willow changed tack. "Or maybe not, cause that would be a misuse of magic. But hey, at least this year I didn't just magic it all in place." She indicated the delicate filigree angel nestled in her hand. She'd already hung its five companions.

Kennedy continued to untangle the lights. "Or we could just jump up. Slayer strength means extra slayer bounce."

"Means slayer holes in the ceiling. Or we could ask Giles' Mister Benedict for a ladder." Buffy smiled cheekily at him.

His look of exasperation took a few of the company back to fondly remembered days in a certain library. "He is not MY Mister Benedict."

"Just like that zombie cat was never yours?" The four of them smiled at a shared memory. The others ignored them, used to these silent moments of camaraderie. Even Faith found she was no longer jealous. After all, she was starting to make her own memories.

Xander had spied something behind one of the sofas. Bending down, he lifted another, smaller box. "More decorations?" This one was slightly more worn by the others, and had obviously been battered a few times in its travels.

A slightly blushing Giles spoke up before Xander could open the flaps on the box. "Not exactly. More like spares, but we seem to have ample." Too late, he'd been sprung.

"Oh man." Xander looked at the eclectic collection before him. He gently lifted out obvious antiques mixed with more recent ornaments, and some objects that appeared to have been home made. Nobody spoke until the last one was removed from the box.

Dawn bent to pick up a card with a hand drawn tree that had been sprinkled with glitter. A large R was painted on the back. At some time somebody had taken the time to cover the card in plastic and attach it to some thin wire. "Aw. Giles is this your first Christmas card?"

Giles' blush now raged across his face and down his neck. His ears were turning an alarming shade of red. "Th-they were in the attic of my house. It seemed a waste to keep them there, a-and I wasn't sure if there'd be enough decorations in the shop to."

"I think they're sweet." Faith's quiet words surprised them all. "It's kinda nice, you know, to have things for so long." She gently brushed her fingers over a crystal ornament.

Buffy gestured to the others. "Let's clear a space on the tree so we can hang them all together."

Kennedy stopped a moment. "Giles, can I make a phone call? Even if it's overseas?"

Giles looked across at the young slayer curiously. "Of course you can."

"I-it's just that Mom's got so many of our decorations in the attic I thought maybe she could send me some, if that's okay?" None of them had heard her so nervous or unsure of herself.

"I think it's a wonderful idea."

Robin turned to Faith, knowing how she was feeling. "I think tomorrow we'll go and buy a couple of ornaments. Maybe even put our names on them. Then they can go on our tree next year." She shook her head at him, but she was obviously pleased with the idea.

Xander and Willow looked at each other. The Wicca spoke. "I'll call my folks tomorrow."

"Will, your folks don't do Christmas. I didn't think they'd have any ornaments."

"They don't exactly." Xander answered the blonde slayer. "But one day in kindergarten we had to make decorations for our own Christmas tree. Willow's folks put them away in a box for us, and we used to put them out in her room each year."

Willow picked up the story. "When they took up their two year appointments in Nigeria, they took most of the stuff in storage with them. Mom wrote the other week to say she'd found the box."

"Wow. So even the Rosenbergs had a Christmas tradition."

Giles smiled as he moved to help his new family place the decorations from his old family on the tree. "We had a tradition in our house. As we decorated the tree, we'd make wishes for the year."

Buffy grinned up at him. "Did they ever come true?"

"Yes, sometimes. But I never did get that Harrier jump jet I wished for."

Willow paused. "So did you just wish for presents, or could they be anything?"

"Presents were usually top of the list, but they weren't usually the ones that came true. My mother always had the same wish. That we'd see the same faces the next Christmas. Unfortunately, that was one wish that rarely came true." They all worked silently together. Most of the tree was covered before Giles spoke again. "What would you all wish for?"

"I know what I want." Dawn had obviously been thinking about this. In fact, Giles could almost guarantee all of them had.

"Wishes are a waste of time." Faith was ever the cynical.

"A bit like surprises?" Amazing how Robin could make her blush.

"Alright! I wish for a long and happy life. Satisfied?"

Robin nodded. "And I wish you get what you really want."

"Why don't you.?"

"Faith!" Buffy's admonishment reminded the other slayer that there was still a minor in the room.

Dawn snorted. "I've heard worse."

"What bars have you been visiting?" Faith blew a kiss toward the scowling teen.

"I know what I want to wish for." The others turned toward Willow. "I-I want some of the traditions back, some of the things that used to mean Christmas, or Hanukkah. We lost that the last couple of years."

"You want me to go out and buy 'A Snoopy Christmas' for you?"

Willow smiled at Xander. "That'd help."

"What would you wish for, Xander?"

The younger man paused, thinking hard. "I want normal; no demons, no magic. Just a normal Christmas like real people have. With ordinary presents."

Giles nodded. "That's fair enough. But I think that's something all of us are wishing for, so it doesn't count. What else?"

"Anya." They all stopped to stare at him. "Oh, I don't mean I want her resurrected or anything. After Armistice Day I'm kinda getting used to her not being here. But I'd like her to be some part of our first Christmas."

Dawn giggled. "As long as we don't get to meet the real Santa Claus."

Kennedy looked up. "Who? What?"

Buffy explained for the members of their party who hadn't been there that Christmas. "Anya was telling us that Santa Clause was real. Only he ate children instead of bringing them presents."

Faith bent to whisper in Dawn's ear. "Well I guess that makes all of us safe, except you."

"Hey! I am not a child. You might as well say he'd be after Kennedy too."

"Hey!" Kennedy and Willow both protested.

Giles and Buffy shared a smile. "What about you, love? What do you want to wish for?"

"I already have what I want." Groans from the rest of the party at the sentimental comment caused her to raise her hand in protest. "Alright. I wish for something to make it official." At the confused looks, "I want a way to show the world that we're a family."

Giles snorted. "Don't worry. I've already been identified as the father of every one of you."

"Even me?"

"It seems you're a distant relative, Robin. Very distant."

Buffy huffed. "What are they? Blind?"

"Hey!" Dawn caught everybody's attention. "I said I already knew what to wish for. How come I'm last?"

"No, you aren't honey. Kennedy and Giles haven't wished yet."

"I've already made mine. And no, you can't know what it is or it won't come true." At the look on Giles' face, the others knew better than to badger for more information. Besides, they'd just let Buffy work on him.

"Okay, sweetie. What do you want?" Willow asked her lover.

"Well, you're gonna laugh." At their assurance they wouldn't Kennedy continued.

"No slaying." She waited until the laughter subsided. "I know I was the one who wanted to be the slayer, and I'm always looking to fight. But for Christmas I'd like to have no big bads, no major battles, and no apocalypses. In the New Year, I'll go kill the big bads."

Giles smiled. "And how long should this truce last for?"

Kennedy shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. How about six days before and six days after?"

The Watcher nodded. "Seems fair enough." He stepped back, watching Xander and Robin drape the last of the tinsel toward the top of the tree. He'd noticed the silent fight the two men had won over the slayers on the right to put the lights on, and the instructions they'd received to make sure they were perfectly placed. "I see we didn't need the stepladder after all."

"Now can I tell you all my wish?" At the others' agreement Dawn continued. "If we're stuck over here... no offence Giles."

"None taken."

"I want a White Christmas. If it's going to be freezing at Christmas, then I might as well have the snow."

"You already had a White Christmas, Dawn."

"Not really. I wasn't here, remember; I just have your memory of it. Besides that was a fake one, made for Angel."

"I'm sorry, Dawn." There was genuine regret in Giles' voice. "I think I could count on one hand the actual number of Christmases in which England actually received snow. It tends to arrive toward March."

Dawn pouted. "Well, that's no good."

"You never know, Dawn. Look at the miracle we already have." Buffy stepped back to look at the now completed tree. Whereas it had seemed large before, fully decorated it appeared to swallow up the entire room. Swathes of gold, silver, red, green and blue tinsel wove around, under, and over branches, the tips of which held ornaments of every description. From an antique crystal star, to paper decorations made by Giles' family, to gaudy modern baubles, they shouted of the varied nature of the group admiring their effect. And yet, like the group, their differences blended, making them all seem to fit. And toward the center were the three sets of light, waiting to delight and awe their audience with their coordinated displays. The others joined her as Xander switched on the lights. "It seems this year anything's possible."

"Yeah. Even snow in England." Dawn smiled as the lights began flashing. She paused for a moment than ran into her bedroom. A few minutes later she returned with something in her hand. "I just remembered something. I kinda liberated this from Aunt Darlene when we were at her place." She lifted a small object to show her sister.

"Oh my God! I'd forgotten all about that." Buffy's expression transformed into a mixture of joy and sadness at the sad little ornament before her. It had obviously been an animal of some kind, though the edges had smoothed down until it was an almost indiscernible lump. Where a tail might have been was only a slightly jagged bump, witness to an accident some years ago. The small bumps on the top of what used to be the head indicated the possible nature of the creature, however the paint had faded and chipped away to show the porcelain base below. For all its sad and decrepit appearance, an obviously precious momento of holidays passed.

Giles dared to broach the question. "What is it? Why don't you put it in with mine?"

"Good idea." Dawn hung the ornament on a still naked branch. "It's from our old tree. It's Ranulf the Reindeer." At the querying looks. "Rudolph's poor neglected brother. Mom said it had been on trees in her family for years. There, now it's perfect."

Buffy leaned into the man who'd made this magical moment possible. "It certainly is."

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A star on a Christmas tree.


Proceed To Day Two