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

"How long are they going to be?"

Buffy shrugged at her sister's query. Andrew had returned from the journey Giles had assigned him an hour ago. Now, the two of them were involved in a serious conversation from which she'd been banned. By Andrew. "I don't know. I'm not allowed to be part of this."

"Must be something not of the good happening in Los Angeles."

"I don't know. I'm sure Giles'll tell me what I need to know when it's time."

"Well, I hope they'll hurry. I don't want Andrew around later."

Buffy looked at her curiously. "Are you thinking of buying him a Christmas present?"

Dawn shook her head. "It's not that. I have an idea I want to run by you and Giles, and it'll be easier if Andrew isn't around."

* * * * *

"He was very insistent. He doesn't want Buffy to know."

Giles looked toward her. He wasn't sure how she'd take this news. "I'm expected to keep news of this magnitude from her? I doubt if she'd forgive me. Does he know about us?"

Andrew shook his head. "No. I thought it'd be better coming from you guys. Besides, I didn't want two upset vampires thinking about killing the messenger." He shrugged.

Giles nodded. "I'll think about it. I don't like the idea of keeping this from her. I'd hate her to think I don't trust her. But you're right. Spike's wishes must be respected."

* * * * *

"...And then he lifted his eye patch!" The four occupants of the room looked up at the sound of the others approaching. Willow's giggling brought a smile to Kennedy's lips.

"And the guy still didn't even twitch an eyelid. Must take them years to learn not to move."

"Your eye patch, Xander?" The door began to open. "Show me something that gross and..." Faith trailed off at the sight before her. The others tumbled slightly into her, trying to look over her shoulder.

"Guys? What's going on?" Willow walked around Faith, followed by Xander and the three new slayers. Robin, Vi and Rona remained where they were.

Buffy smiled at the newcomers. She sat on the second sofa, Giles beside her. Kennedy was still using the other one as a daybed, and Dawn knelt between her sister and one of the coffee tables. On top of it sat church candles of various sizes. Kennedy held one in her hand, a knife in the other. Horizontal marks were cut evenly along the length of the candle. "Hey. Did you have fun sightseeing?"

Xander shrugged. "Amelia showed us a few places not on the maps, but it was great doing the whole tourist thing. She also showed Willow how to use the, tube." He indicated the setting with his hand. "What's this about?"

Buffy dipped her head toward her sister. "It was Dawn's idea. And this seemed the appropriate time to do it." She looked toward the man beside her.

"Why don't you all sit down?" He waited till they'd all settled. "Marie, Celeste, this doesn't really affect you, but we'd like you to be part of this." He smiled at them. As slayers, you'll find you'll make unusual alliances and you'll want to mark them somehow. Which is what we've been doing these past few days." He looked at them all, resting a few moments on each face. There was a special warmth for four of them, but that was as it should be. He would always care for the others, however, and would be genuinely sorry to say goodbye to them. "In a way, tonight is about the past and the future. These," he indicate the candles, "are in memory of those lost since we've come together. Of course, if we were to light a candle for them all, we'd probably burn the hotel down." He smiled, appreciating when it was returned by several of them. "So these are for the ones who meant something a little bit more."

Dawn looked toward Willow. "I got the idea from your Menorah. I kinda like remembering them, you know?"

"We all do, Dawnie." Buffy rested her hand upon her sister's head. "It's only a few days till Christmas. And that shouldn't be a time of tears. So this is it. This is your time to remember those gone, and to say goodbye to them again." She stopped, obviously holding back great emotion.

Giles knew Buffy didn't want to deal with what was next, so he took over once again. "But this is also about the future. I think we all know by now that we'll be breaking up shortly, and it may be some time before we're all together again. I believe all the final plans have been made."

"Once the candles are lit, each of us says what we plan to do. Where we'll be going, what our futures hold. Get it out in the open once and for all." Dawn was almost defiant in her last statement.

Giles leaned forward slightly. He felt Buffy's hand cover his. "And this will be the last day of tears. For the next few days we'll only be concentrating on now. Not yesterday or tomorrow, but this time with our family. We could have done this tomorrow, but Buffy and I have other plans."

"Yeah, we all know you're getting rid of us so you can have wild monkey sex." Xander stopped as he realized what he said, and saw the disgusted looks on some faces. "I guess I'll be paying for therapy for the next twenty years."

"Yes, well." Giles cleared his voice. "Wild monkey sex notwithstanding, as this is virtually our last night together here, the pizza's will be on me."

Willow leant down to hug the teenager. "I think it's a wonderful idea. Are we starting right now?" At Giles' nod she walked to the buffet where her menorah was burning, three candles now lit. Lifting the taper lying beside it, she touched the tip to the most recent flame. Once the flame had passed, she touched it against the next candle, reciting the prayer she'd been taught as a child. She then returned to the group, the lit taper in her hand. "Where do we start?"

Giles smiled. "There are ten candles. We thought we'd keep it within the theme. Kennedy?"

Kennedy placed her candle on the coffee table. It was the second largest of the collection. Reaching over, she took the taper off her girlfriend. She looked toward the six slayers who'd just entered. "I wanted to honor the slayers who died stopping the First Evil. And those who've gone since. But, as Giles said, if we lit one for all of them, we'd need a couple of dozen days before Christmas. So this," she lit the candle, "is for all of them. A mark for each one. I'm sorry we couldn't name you all, but each of you will be remembered for your sacrifice." She smiled at the looks of approval from the other slayers. "Hey, I can have my soft moments too."

Willow rolled her eyes as she took the taper from Kennedy. "Luckily, they're just moments." The two shared a look before she turned toward the candles. Choosing one slightly smaller than the others, but tinted in the color of the rainbow. "This is for Tara. You were always the better half of me, and I'll carry you with me till the end of time." She turned to her best friend.

Accepting the taper, Xander thought for a moment. He turned toward Vi and Rona. Would one of you light one for her? There's somebody else I need to remember. Vi nodded. He chose his own candle. "This is for Jesse. Most of you never met him. He was the third musketeer to Will and me. He was the first victim of a vampire for us. And he was the first vampire I killed, even if it was by accident." He and Willow looked at each other, sharing childhood memories. "This is for you, man. We never forgot you."

Vi took the taper. "This is for Anya. I always admired her. I was so scared when we first got to Sunnydale. She seemed so strong. Of course it was all an act. I know that now. She just knew only one way to talk." There were a few giggles. "And I learnt more from her about sex in a few months than anybody else in all my life." Vi shook her head, as she lit the flame to her candle.

"May I?" Robin took the taper. "I know you guys never knew her, but I think, I hope, she should be part of this." He looked toward Buffy and Giles, his gratitude at their agreement evident. "For my Mom. I can barely remember you. But no matter how anybody tried to ruin your memory for me, you'll always be the best and bravest." After lighting his candle, he turned toward Faith.

"I don't." She hesitated. "I keep wanting to light one for Mayor Wilkins, but I won't." She put her hands up in mock surrender at the scowls on some faces. She shrugged. "I suppose the only other person who's had any kind of influence on me was my Watcher. For a while there I kept thinking I only attracted bad people. But she was good, you know? For a Watcher." She smiled at Giles. He'd had a discussion with her a few days ago about his feelings about her first Watcher. He hoped it helped.

"My turn." They all looked at Andrew. "You'll probably think I've got no right to do this. Having killed him and all." This last was said in a mumble, forcing the others to concentrate on his words. "But he was the best friend I ever had, if only I'd known it. And he was with you all for all those years. He may not have been part of you, but he was there. This is for Jonathan." The slayers behind Andrew shrugged, not knowing who this person was. Giles wondered at Robin's slightly guilty look.

Buffy took the taper from Andrew, giving him an almost gentle look. "You're probably all thinking I'll light this for Spike. But as he's alive now." she scowled at him. "He really doesn't need one."

"Hey! You weren't meant to know!"

"We all know, Andrew. Giles asked our opinion, and we agreed with his decision." Xander turned toward Buffy. "Who's your candle for, Buff?"

Buffy held the taper up, looking into the flame that was beginning to dim. "I know we have a candle for all the slayers, but I'd like to remember one by herself. Because she came when there was only one slayer. Until I screwed up the timeline." She smiled at the irony of that. "She was the perfect slayer. And yet I felt so sorry for her. She never had a life. I'd like to think I'd helped her to start changing that. In the end, she made the ultimate sacrifice. For Kendra." Lighting the candle before her, Buffy turned to Giles. There were only two unlit candles left.

Giles thought for a moment, wondering how he could explain her to these strangers. Then, looking at those who'd known her, he knew there was no need. "She's been gone quite a few years now. But there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her. Perhaps not a real memory, or a moment of grief. I might just see something and think 'Jenny'd like that'. She will always own a corner of me. She showed me that it was alright to be off center, and still fulfill your destiny. For Jenny Calendar."

They all looked down at Dawn. There was just one candle left, the largest and the prettiest of the lot. The others seemed to surround it; drawn to it, protected by it. Giles wondered what Dawn would say about the person it was there for. In the end, her words said all that needed to be said. She touched the taper to the flame. "For Mom."

They sat, looking at the orange and blue lights, remembering, letting go of their past. Finally, Buffy sighed. "Who wants to go first?"

Kennedy put her hand up. "Same order as the candle lighting?" At the agreeing nods of the others, she shifted a little. "Alright. Some of you know already, but I might as well make it official. I'm the first recruit of the Initiative's slayer squads. As soon as the holidays are over I report in Washington, where I undergo specialized training."

Willow's expression held a mixture of excitement and trepidation. "I'll be staying in England. I guess most of you knew that." She smiled. "But, I'm not going to the coven. I'll be staying in London with Aunt Agatha. She's going to help me develop some of my gifts. And Oz is hanging around for a while. He's going to show me some of the tricks he learnt to control the wolf. That way, I'll hopefully be able to stop from going psycho witch again."

"Just warn me if I need to get an extra large supply of yellow crayons." Xander patted Willow's knee. He looked around the room, then faced Dawn as he spoke. "I'm going away for a while. Back to the States first, then I don't know where." He shrugged. "I need to leave the demon and magic stuff behind for a bit, and learn what it's like to be a normal guy in a normal world. But I'll be back, one day."

Giles doubted if anybody else noticed Dawn mouth the words 'one day' back at Xander.

Vi looked at the slayers standing behind her. "I'm going back to Cleveland. Amelia and Maria are going with me. Once the Hellmouth's no longer a threat, I'll be moving on, looking for vampires around the state."

Rona spoke up. "I guess I'll be the Initiative's second recruit." She shared a smile with Kennedy. "Agent Finn said I don't have to cut my hair, so I'm cool. Celeste is joining us."

Robin wrapped his arm around Faith, drawing her to his side. "We're going back to the States, too. After that, it's up to Faith. She's the boss here."

Faith snorted. "Since when?" The genuine happiness in her eyes was a welcome sight to those who'd known her longest. "We're going back to Cleveland, too. Then we're going to open the American branch of the School for Slayers. Robin's going to be working with the Initiative, and acting as Giles' representative. In between, he'll be teaching."

Robin looked down at her quizzically. "And what will you be doing while I'm doing all of that?"

She smiled. "Maybe I'll surprise you."

"I, um." Andrew cleared his throat. "I'll be doing more work for Mister Giles, and moving between L.A. and here. I still have a lot of atoning to do, so I'll go where I'm sent." He shrugged. There'd been a marked change about Andrew in the past few months. He'd stopped fantasizing, and begun living in the real world. Giles frowned, remembering their previous conversation.

"Giles and I'll be stopping in England." He jumped slightly, realizing Buffy had begun. "His work is here, trying to salvage what he can from the Council, and seeing if he can get the remaining members on board. I'll be going to Europe again in the New Year. There're still slayers out there that need to be found."

"And further afield. Vi, are you adamant about returning to America?" Giles had been thinking about this for a while. The red headed slayer's arrival had finalized his decision. "You have a natural aptitude for languages. We need to find those slayers in Asia and Africa. Would you like to become our advanced guard?" The girl's excitement was obvious.

"Dawn? What about you?"

Dawn smiled at Willow's query. "I'm going to university. Not sure which one yet. Robin. Sorry, Principal Wood, said my last results would be on the state register. The last term didn't count cause hardly anybody did any studying. And Giles is going to help me prepare for the entry exams."


She shrugged. "Don't know yet. I've got a few I'd like to get accepted by. Buffy wants me to stay in England, but if I have to, I'll go back to America."

They all sat silently for a few moments, contemplating past and future. Giles knew that, although they were all going their separate ways, eventually they would come back together.

"So, what happens now?"

They all looked up at Kennedy's question. Buffy answered with one of her own. "Will, are Oz and Marta coming over?"

Willow nodded. "Their last set finishes in about an hour, and they'll come straight over."

Xander rubbed his hands together. "Time enough to enjoy a couple of glasses of 'nog. Anybody know where we can get some?"

"Already organized. Benedict should have it delivered here in..." They all turned toward the Louis XVI clock. "Three, two, one." They all smiled at the knock at the door.

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas My True Love Sent To Me
Ten Candles For Lighting
Nine Demons Caroling
Eight Slayers Slaying
A Menorah For Remembering
Six DVD's A Playing
Five Scooby Rings
Four Futures Told
Three Old Loves
Two Gift Vouchers
And A Star On A Christmas Tree

Proceed To Day Eleven