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

Laughter could be heard as a man and young girl paused outside of their door. Buffy frowned, angry at Giles for leaving her to face the others after the embarrassing scene the previous night. Whenever she looked at Dawn, her sister turned away deliberately. Faith just smirked, Kennedy giggled, Willow looked embarrassed for her, and Xander kept shaking his head. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Xander! It happened. You didn't have a nightmare."

"You sound like you're bragging." Dawn glared daggers at her sister.

"I'm not exactly ashamed either. It's not my fault you came back early." She mumbled under her breath. "I'm just glad you weren't even earlier."

The door opened before anybody could respond. Giles and Amelia stood in the doorway, happy grins on their faces. "Morning all." Giles moved to where Buffy sat, deliberately bending down and kissing her. As he rose, he winked at her.

"Oh, please. Do we have to watch you two doing that all the time?"

Giles turned toward Dawn. "Yes, I believe you do. Any complaints?"

Dawn opened her mouth, then closed it in defeat. "I suppose not. Just don't do... that... again if you're not in your bedroom."

Buffy giggled. She couldn't help herself. "Where have you been?"

"Church." They all looked up at him in shock. "Morning mass. Where else am I going to hear a choir sing 'The Holly and The Ivy'?"

Amelia sat next to Kennedy. "It's Uncle Rupert's favorite. Mummy used to tell me how he'd sing it even before he could talk. It's a family tradition going to mass. We normally going to midnight mass, but Uncle Rupert said..." She trailed off at the warning shake of his head.

Buffy looked up at her lover suspiciously. "Why couldn't you go to midnight mass?"

He looked down at her. "Because we'll be busy then."

Before anybody could question him, there was a knock on the door. Willow smiled happily, then went to open it. Oz and Marta stood on the other side, a toddler so like Oz it was unbelievable, in his mother's arms. When he saw Willow, he reached for her, determined to have a cuddle with her. Marta let him go without a struggle.

The others gathered round the two newcomers, exchanging hugs and greetings. Oz turned to Giles. "I hope we're not late."

Giles shook his head. "Just in time." He looked at the others. "We're going on a journey. You all have exactly fifteen minutes to pack enough clothes for three days. Days, Dawn, not weeks. And you'll need your passports. Anybody not ready by then, gets left behind."

"But, what about the presents? And the tree?"

Giles kissed the young girl on her forehead. "All taken care of. You now have fourteen and a half minutes. Move!" The room emptied quickly. Buffy paused to watch him say goodbye to Amelia. Shrugging, knowing he'd tell them when the time was right, she went to pack.

* * * * *

They left in taxis, leaving a crying Talbot Benedict waving them off with his handkerchief. At Dawn's look of concern, for the little man, Giles quickly reassured her. "I spoke to the Colonel. He and Benedict are going to host a fine dinner tomorrow with all the guests and staff. He'll be fine, Dawn."

She nodded, satisfied.

The taxis stopped at the train station. Giles guided his group through to the appropriate platform, collecting passports as he went. Once the destination was known, a little squeal emitted from one of the group.

"You're taking us to Paris for Christmas? Giles, this almost makes up for last night! Are their shops open on Christmas Day?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Dawn, you're beginning to sound like Anya. Did she have somebody magic those gift certificates, or something?"

Giles smiled as he presented the tickets and passports to the appropriate officials. "We're going to France, yes. But our ultimate destination is somewhere you'll never guess."

"As long as we're back for New Year's Eve. We've got a gig." Oz juggled his son and a carry bag, hampered by the knapsack on his back.

"To which we have already purchased our tickets. Don't worry, we'll be back in a few days." So saying, he led them onto the Eurostar platform, looking for their train and carriage. "With so many of us going, I thought it appropriate that I hire a carriage, rather than purchase separate seats. We're over," he looked at the display on the side of the train, "the other side, near the engine." They all trouped to the end of the platform, excitement at their journey and wonder of their final destination the topics of conversation.

They settled in their carriage, most of them choosing seats next to windows. Only Giles and Buffy remained unconcerned, having done the trip several times. They settled back and smiled at each other, amused at the excitement of the others. "What'll we do with them when we hit the tunnel?"

Giles closed his eyes. "They'll be excited about traveling underwater for the first few minutes. Then we'll get them to start guessing when we hit halfway."

"Great way to start a fight, Giles."

He opened his eyes at the sound of a newcomer. Willow smiled across at him. He felt a tug. Looking down he saw Oz's son trying to crawl on his lap. "Hello. Does this... creature... have a name?"

Buffy rolled her eyes as Oz answered him. "The thing is called Zach, and he doesn't bite... yet." The other adults laughed at Giles' alarmed expression, though it was hard to tell if it was at the thought of the child of werewolves biting, or the fact that Zach was now firmly ensconced on his lap.

* * * * *

"Sure I can't take him from you?"

"No, thank you. We're fine for now. Ah, here they are." The group stopped outside the train station. Four cars were parked out the front, a driver standing beside each. Giles nodded, and the drivers took the bags from the group. "Xander, do you mind taking care of Dawn and Andrew? Oz, you may have this creature back, now."

Shaking his head, Oz reached for his son. "I was beginning to wonder if we'd have to sue him for custody." He and Marta moved to one of the cars. The other couples soon followed. Xander rolled his eyes at Giles as Dawn and Andrew were heard bickering in the back of theirs.

Holding his hand out to Buffy, Giles headed for the lead car. They settled back, Buffy enjoying the passing scenery as they made their way through the French countryside. Eventually, the hum of the engine combined with the warmth from the heater to make her feel drowsy. Succumbing to temptation, she closed her eyes and placed her head on Giles' shoulder. She smiled as she felt him place a kiss on her crown.

* * * * *

Something was different. She knew that, but it was hard to tell what. She was so warm and comfortable that she really didn't want to wake up. But it felt not right somehow, and her slayer senses were dragging her from her wonderful dream. She felt Giles' arm around her, and she snuggled into his chest. "Hey. I just had the greatest dream. We were in a sleigh riding in the snow..." His chuckle and something wet falling on her cheek forced her to stop. Finally opening her eyes, she sat up in shock, then turned an accusing look at her lover.

It hadn't been a dream. They were indeed in a sleigh, the driver from the car guiding two horses along a path in a snow-covered forest. Flakes of snow were gently falling, but they were kept warm and protected by rugs covering them both. Turning behind her, she saw three familiar sleighs following. Giles now wore a self-congratulatory smirk.

"How did you do it?"

"Would you believe, magic?"

She nodded. "I got that bit. How did you get us all to fall asleep?"

"The heater. Had a slight sedative in the unit. And before you ask, I had a mask in my pocket. Once you started dropping off, I put it on."

"I am so going to get you for this one." She turned back around to the front, then rested against his shoulder. She sighed, enjoying the open ride with her man beside her. "Should we be singing Jingle Bells?"

He giggled. "I have it on good authority the horses don't like the song and will likely bolt."

"Okay." Snuggling into him, she watched as they wove their way through the trees. "I guess we're not in France any more." When he didn't answer, she realized questions would be a waste for the moment. "Have we much longer?"

"Only a few minutes. Why?"

"I was just thinking that a sleigh is about the only place we haven't made love."

He pressed a heated kiss on her forehead. "The journey home will take hours. And hours."


He bent to take her mouth with his when a noise from the driver alerted him. He looked up. "Ah. Here we are."

Buffy followed the direction of his gaze. Her breath caught. Before them rose a large wooden structure two storeys high. An 'A' framed roof covered the entire building, lattice work attached to the eaves adding to the gingerbread affect. Welcome lights shone from all windows, and, as they drew nearer, she could see lanterns lit across the length of the large verandah.

The sleighs halted in front of the building, and Giles stood. Before he could help Buffy out, the sound of pounding feet on the packed snow could be heard. They turned to see Robin, Xander and Oz running toward them, their breaths frosting in the icy air. Xander paused, trying to catch his breath. "Tell me you know about this. Cause I hate to think we're gonna have to fight some evil in such a beautiful place."

Giles smiled. "Are the girls still asleep?"

Robin nodded. "Faith's a bit groggy but she'll probably be awake by the time I get there. Must be that slayer stamina." He indicated Buffy with his head.

Buffy frowned. "Wait a minute. How come the girls are asleep, but the guys are all awake."

"Andrew's still dozing. And I only woke up a few minutes ago." Xander turned to Giles.

"Chemistry. We're taller than the girls. Well, most." He smiled apologetically at Oz. "The drivers turned off the heaters once you'd all fallen asleep, so the dosage wasn't as strong in you as it was the girls."

"That's how you did it!" Robin shook his head. "Remind me not to become an enemy of yours. You're too sneaky."

Oz shrugged. "Guess being a werewolf has extra perks. Faster metabolism."

Giles nodded. "The drivers have just taken our bags in, and somebody's waiting to greet us. Shall we?" Bending down, he lifted Buffy in his arms. The other three went to collect their various female companions.

Xander paused. "What about Willow and Kennedy? And Andrew? Cause there's no way I'm carrying him in." Giles indicated with his head. The drivers had already returned to the sleighs. Willow was just being lifted from hers, and Andrew was being carried toward the chalet.

Smiling down at Buffy, he walked toward the verandah. "Wouldn't want Andrew to get there first." Burying her face in his neck, she didn't bother advising him she was capable of walking.

Looking up when he climbed the steps, she noticed a man standing there. It was hard to tell how old he was, but from the gray hair and lined face, he'd been around a while. He wore the clothes of a European peasant. At least that's what she thought they were. They looked similar to pictures she'd seen. She nodded at him when he bowed. He indicated the double doors behind him. Giles carried her through them and into a small entry. "Hey." He looked down at her. "You just carried me across the threshold."

He smiled. "Practicing." Lowering her feet, he steadied her while she gained her balance, then helped her remove her clothing. The others soon joined them, the noise increasing as they all became more fully awake and curious as to their surroundings. "In time. I believe there's a fire waiting for us in the living room once you remove your coats. They all obeyed, the chill of the air felt by all. "This is Willem. He'll be serving us while we're here."

The old gentleman bowed deeply. "It is an honor to serve you all. Your needs will be catered for during your stay." At his enigmatic statement, he opened the door between the entry and the living area.

The first thing they noticed was the huge fire roaring in the open plan living area. The second, their Christmas tree with all its decorations and presents waiting for them. The third, the person standing before the tree. "Aunt Agatha!" By now they'd all met Giles' great aunt, and she was soon surrounded as she exchanged hugs.

"Merry Christmas everybody. I've been waiting a while for you all." There were tears in the old woman's eyes, and nobody could be sure if she meant she'd been waiting for them to arrive, or for them to come into her life.

Willow turned an accusing look at Giles. "I thought you didn't believe in doing magic for trivial purposes."

It was Aunt Agatha who answered. Ah, but this isn't trivial, dear. And a little magic now and then to bring happiness to others," she stroked Dawn's cheek, "is different to doing magic when normal methods are just as good."

Faith turned to Giles. "So. You gonna tell us where we are, now?"

He smiled. "It's an old hunting lodge. It belonged to the Council, still does I suppose. Though they'd never use it this time of the year. Where we are I can't really tell you. I'm not exactly sure myself. The lodge protects itself by keeping its location secret."

"Now, before Rupert has to give lengthy explanations I've made punch." Aunt Agatha pointed to a large silver bowl where steam could be seen rising. "It's a not punch full of spices and fruit." Willow hesitated before accepting one of the filled cups being handed out by Willem. "Don't worry, dear. It's an old family recipe, not one of mine."

Buffy and Giles received theirs as Dawn took a drink from hers. Buffy wondered at the expression on Dawn's face, but Giles realized as soon as he took a sip. "Aunt Agatha!"

The old woman turned to him, the picture of innocence. "Yes, Rupert dear?"

"I said no alcohol!" The anger in his voice was evident as he took the offending item from Dawn's hand.

Aunt Agatha pouted. "I only used a small amount."

"I don't call a whole bottle of the family's best cognac a small amount!"

"How...?" Realizing she'd been sprung, Aunt Agatha shut up, then muttered: "I should have gone with Amelia to her family. Didn't realize he'd become so straight-laced."

"Hey, Marshmallows." Xander moved nearer the fire, sitting on one of the three long sofas that formed a 'U' in front of it. On the occasional tables dotting the area were bowls of confectionery, including the aforementioned marshmallows. The others soon joined him, making themselves comfortable as they attacked the sweets.

Willem paused on his way to the upper area. "I believe you young people like to toast them. I've left some appropriate sticks by the fire."

Willow and Xander looked at each other, then searched for the sticks. Placing themselves in the necessary location for the required action, they turned back to the others. Xander raised the question. "Anybody want toasted marshmallows?"

The smell of melting sugar and sounds of pleasure soon filled the room. Giles and Aunt Agatha smiled at each other as she bit into one of the hot confectioneries. She closed her eyes in ecstasy. "Why didn't anybody tell me this existed before?"

Dawn had been watching the bowls as people helped themselves. A frown developed as she noticed something. "Those marshmallows aren't going down."

They all looked to where she was pointing. Giles answered. "Of course not. They're everlasting."

You - you mean we can eat all we want, and we'll never run out?" The joy in Xander's voice caused a look of worry to cross Giles' face.

Buffy decided it was time to change the subject. "Dawn, haven't you realized what we're doing here, yet?" Her sister nodded her head, a look of confusion on her face. "It's snowing outside." She waited a moment, knowing her sister wouldn't let her down.

A look of wonder and joy broke across Dawn's face. She looked at Giles. "You did it for me?" There were tears in her voice. "Thank you." She ran to him and hugged him. "You're the best boyfriend my sister ever had. I'm glad she came to her senses."

He hugged her to him. "So am I. Merry Christmas, Dawnie." She looked up at him. It was the first time he'd called her that. They smiled at each other. "I wish many such Christmases for all of us."

Xander fidgeted, trying to hold himself back. In the end, he realized it was a waste of time. "Merry Christmas everybody. And as the resident cripple it behoves me to say 'God bless us, every one.'" There were several groans from the group. Giles indicated the bowl to Dawn. Taking his cue, she grabbed some of the marshmallows and threw them at Xander. "Hey!" The others followed suit, and he found himself being pelted from every side.

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas My True Love Sent To Me
Twelve Wishes Granted
Eleven Sexy Scenes
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

* * * * *

He sat in front of the fire, his fingers gently strumming the strings of the acoustic guitar. The others had retired long ago, but he'd been unable to sleep, his mind full of memories, old and new. The grandfather clock below the stairs chimed the quarter hour before midnight, but he barely noticed it.

"It's the star." He looked up at her voice, his breath catching at the vision of her. She'd obviously just left their bed, her hair slightly rumbled from sleep. An animal skin covered her body, exposing only her bare lower legs and naked feet. "That's how you did it."

He shifted the guitar, allowing her to replace it on his lap. "Did what?"

Her arm swept around her. "All of this. The wishes."

"Ah." He rested his forehead against hers. "Wondered how long it would take."

"Is it magic?"

"In a way. It's a relic from the vaults of the Council of Watchers. I knew about it but had never seen it. I thought it might help ease the loneliness and homesickness of us all."

"And the 12 days thing?"

"It works in its own way."

"But you didn't do them all."

"No. I had to trust in the star. I would know which were my responsibility, and accept it would organize the rest."

"It screwed up though." He leaned back, looking at her quizzically. "We didn't have twelve today."


"I couldn't count twelve of them, unless you include when we went out to dinner."

He shook his head. "It has to be said in the presence of the star."

"Okay." She counted each wish on her finger. "Dawn wanted a White Christmas."

"And for Vi and Rona to turn up."

"Oh yeah. That's two. Xander wanted something normal. The DVDs?" Giles nodded. "And for Anya to be remembered. Oh. Dawn's gift certificates."

"What did you wish for?"

Buffy frowned as she tried to remember. "A way to show we're a family." She looked down at the band on her finger and smiled. "I see what you mean. Willow wanted something traditional. The Menorah?"

"And Kennedy wanted a few days' break from slaying. I hadn't expected her wish to be granted in such a way."

"So that's seven, right?" He nodded again. "Faith wished for a long and happy life. Robin wished for... What did he wish for again?"

Giles smiled. "He wished she'd get what she really wanted. I have a feeling the vision Faith saw might have granted her wishes."

Buffy thought hard. "What else?"

"Benedict Talbot." At her querying look he explained. "He wanted somebody to appreciate him. I think Dawn did just that."

"And the other two?"

"Mine. I asked for my last wish earlier tonight, remember?"

Buffy thought back. "Lots of Christmases like this. But when did you have a wish before? You didn't do it that day."

"I'd already done it. The wishes start and end with me. I ask, and am granted, the first and last wishes because I initiated the star."

"Oh. So, no more wishes?" He shook his head, and she looked wistfully up at the star. "Pity. What did you wish for?"

Giles looked down, embarrassed. "It."


"I couldn't find the bloody thing!" His exasperation was obvious. "I was crawling through those vaults looking for something I'd never seen, and I became frustrated. So I said 'I wish I could find the stupid star'. And there it was."


He muttered his answer so low, Buffy had trouble understanding him. "Right in front of me."

She looked at him for a moment, unsure what to say. Then it happened, bursting out from her. A giggle. At his glare, she tried to stop, only for more giggles to erupt. Eventually she was holding her side in hysterics, joined reluctantly by Giles. "Right in front of you."

"I was practically stepping on it."

Buffy wiped her eyes, deciding to change the subject. She pointed to the instrument beside him. "I didn't know you'd brought your guitar with you."

He picked it up gently, his fingers lovingly stroking the strings. "I didn't. This is an old friend." He began strumming, finding his way along the notes and chords. "It was the one I had during my 'rebellion' phase. One of the conditions of my return was that it be destroyed. Somehow Aunt Agatha got hold of it. She presented it to me tonight."

"How do you know it's the same one?" Giles stopped playing, tilting the guitar down until the back was visible to Buffy. A heart was engraved in the wood, two initials placed within it. She shook her head. "I so don't want to know about that part of your life."

Giles smiled and continued playing. "Any requests?"

She thought for a moment, then surprised him by starting to sing, her light voice perfect for her choice of song.

'Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight'

He accompanied her on the guitar, enjoying the show she put on for his benefit. She slid around him, her arms draped over his shoulders. Pressing her lips against his ear, she sang the next verse:

'Santa baby, an out-of-space convertible too, light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.

She slid back around to face him. Putting the guitar to one side, he pulled her to him. He captured her lips in his, plundering her mouth with his tongue. They dropped to the ground, the skin falling from Buffy's naked shoulders.

"Don't you two ever do the normal thing and just have sex in your bedroom?"

They looked up at the interruption. Xander was leaning against the rail on the upper level, a look of query on his face. Giles' answer was wryly said. "It's usually more peaceful away from our bedroom. What are you doing up?"

"Thinking. About that star."