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

Xander ran into the suite as if the hounds of hell were after him. "Giles, you've got to do something about Mister Benedict. It has to stop."

Giles looked up, his face full of query. "Did he stop you again?"

"H-he warned me I shouldn't go out without an umbrella because it might rain! Ye Gods, that man's more scary now than when he just hated us."

Willow giggled. "He told Faith and Robin to be home in time for dinner. I thought Faith was going to kill him."

Giles sighed. "No, she did the same as Xander. Ask me to talk to him."

Dawn pouted. "I think it's sweet."

Xander pointed at her. "That's because you're responsible for the change."

Buffy smiled, deciding to join in the fun of teasing her sister. "Dawn, are you sure you didn't steal a bit of Willow's magic? Put a charm on the present you gave Mister Benedict?"

Dawn tossed her hair back, as only a teenager could. "Well, I think you're all being mean. He was obviously lonely. I don't think he ever got a Christmas present before. It's logical that he'd try to adopt us all."

Xander shuddered. "Now, that's a scary thought."

The others started laughing, not realizing how their fun was affecting one of their number. Dawn jumped up, obviously distressed. "What would any of you know what it was like? You've all got other places to go to. You don't need to be here, and to rely on strangers to make you happy! If you did, you wouldn't be so mean!" She ran into her bedroom, her sobs echoing behind her.

"Dawn!" Buffy rose when her sister ignored her, instead slamming her bedroom door. She signaled to Giles. "It's alright. I think this is a sister moment." She walked to her sister's bedroom, knocking lightly on the door and calling her name before entering. She found Dawn on her bed, turned away from her. Tremors shook her lithe body, indicating how distressed the younger girl was. Buffy sighed, then sat on the bed. "Dawnie, you know they didn't mean it. It's just such a big change over twenty four hours."

"You were all cruel. If he'd heard any of you he'd be hurt. You go on and on about me being polite and not hurt people's feelings, but then you all go ahead and abuse somebody like poor Mister Benedict."

Buffy's lips twitched upon hearing her sister calling him 'poor Mister Benedict'. A few days ago Dawn had disliked him as much as the rest of him. She rubbed her hand along her sister's back, remembering their mother doing the same thing for them. She didn't say anything until the sobs turned to hiccups, then subsided. "It isn't just about Mister Benedict though, is it?"

Dawn stilled, then rolled onto her back. She looked up into her elder sister's eyes. "They're going, aren't they?"

Buffy dropped her eyes. She hadn't realized Dawn had noticed. "Not all of them. Willow's staying, but she'll be living with Giles' Aunt Agatha."

"What about us?"

Buffy shook her head. "I don't know. I haven't officially been told by Xander yet either. Giles and I need to talk, to decide what to do."

"Don't I get to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my life?" The accusation was clear.

Buffy sighed, her unhappiness in the sound. "You might get a choice of what University you go to. I'd prefer it if you stayed on the same continent as me."

Dawn's eyes widened. "I-I thought maybe you'd want to get rid of me. Now that you and Giles..."

Buffy's eyes narrowed as her sister spoke. She grabbed Dawn's shoulders and shook her lightly. "Don't you ever, ever say such a thing again. I know I haven't always put you first, but I have never wanted to get rid of you. I tell you, if Giles and I were to somehow split up, we'd be having a custody battle over who gets to keep you. You understand?"

A tremulous smile crossed Dawn's lips. "Yeah. But don't let anything happen to you guys, cause Giles and I'd miss you."

It took a moment to sink in. Buffy pouted at her sister in mock anger. "You." Grabbing a loose pillow she began to pummel Dawn, making sure to temper her strength. Screaming, Dawn grabbed another pillow, and for a few minutes a full fight was on, peppered with screams and giggles. By the time there was a tapping on the door, the room was filled with feathers.

The girls looked up as Giles' head appeared in the doorway. "Dawn, you have visitors."

The sisters looked at each other curiously. Before they could ask him any questions Giles had disappeared. Taking a few moments to make themselves more presentable, they exited the room together and froze in shock.

"Surprise!" Since her transformation from potential to slayer, Vi had grown in confidence. Now, she spread her arms wide, her grin almost as large as her arm-span.

Dawn screamed then hugged the red-haired slayer. She then turned to the girl beside Vi. Their greeting was slightly more restrained, but genuine just the same. "What are you guys doing here?"

Vi and Rona greeted Buffy, then introduced two new faces as Celeste and Marie. A fair-haired girl stood next to Giles, the two of them talking quietly together. Buffy figured they needed their alone time, and was happy to wait to greet the final visitor.

Rona answered Dawn. "We were bored. Now we're the 'senior slayers' we don't do as much of the patrolling and slaying, and if we do go we end up observing the others."

"The Watchers Mister Giles sent to us are pretty much settled now, and promised to keep an eye on the girls. May's folks turned up, and they and Sumiko have promised the Cleveland branch a Christmas meal with a difference."

"Which one's Mai?" The Scoobies rolled their eyes at Xander's question.

"She was the Korean girl who went down the Hellmouth with us. One of the original survivors, remember?" Buffy shook her head at him.

"Hey, there were that many of them. She wasn't one of the first lot, and she didn't stop at my place. Chances were I wouldn't remember her. I'm sorry." Buffy knew he was genuinely contrite. It was sad to know so many girls had died with no-one to remember them.

Rona took up the story, obviously eager to change the subject. "So, Amelia over there was homesick, and we figured we'd come visit you. Maybe get in on some of the action. And these two," she pointed her thumb at Celeste and Marie, "wanted to meet the living legends." She rolled her eyes, obviously disgusted with such a sentiment.

"I was just telling Uncle Rupert that I wanted to have one last Christmas at home, with all of you." The blonde came forward, her cultured English accent more at home in their current location than where she'd been residing since looking for her uncle. She leaned forward to hug Buffy. "It's good to see you again, Buffy. Dawn."

Kennedy shook her head. "I still can't get over a potential slayer in the family of a Watcher and nobody knew."

Giles smiled. "Well, either we were all terribly incompetent, or the Powers That Be were having a laugh at our expense."

Buffy saw Xander pull Dawn to one side. She knew he was apologizing for his earlier attitude. She could only hope they wouldn't have Talbot Benedict as a dinner guest on Christmas Day. Looking up she saw Giles' eyes on her, and from the twinkle in them he was having the same thought.

She clapped her hands together, preparing to organize things. "Right, we better get some sleeping arrangements going. Perhaps we can..."

Vi interrupted. "Oh, a funny little man greeted us in the foyer. He seemed to know we were here to see you. He said to tell you not to worry about accommodation, he'll sort it all out."

Rona turned to Kennedy. "So where's the action around here?"

Kennedy smiled. "We've been following up some demon activity. We're going hunting after dark."

"Cool. I miss having a good fight." Vi grinned as she stripped off her jacket.

* * * * *

In the end they were easy to find. They'd created a hunting pattern encompassing a very small area of London. After their last kill they'd left a trail which the two most experienced slayers followed. Vi could be heard whispering about how she hoped to be able to hunt like that. Buffy looked at Faith, the two of them sharing a smile. "Feel like you're in an old western, hunting the savages in the forests?"

"All we need is the scalps." Faith put her hand up, noticing something just in front of them. The two slayers moved forward, motioning the others to stay back. Turning a corner into a dark alley, they saw some large misshapen forms enter through a wooden door halfway along. Once the area was clear, they nodded and turned back.

"We've found them. Looks like they've led us back to their lair. We don't know how many there are, and don't forget their quills are poisonous. Be alert, and any sign that we're in trouble, retreat. Don't wait for anybody else, just run." Buffy looked around, concerned at the lack of experience of three of the slayers. Giles, Robin and Xander stood among their group, well armed and ready to join the fray.

Smiling, Faith turned back to the alley. Let's go kick some demon ass."

* * * * *

"I tell you, I'm alright. It's only a flesh wound." Willow and Dawn looked up at the sound of the voice outside their door. Willow paled as she recognized the owner of those words.

"Yeah, right." Faith's sarcasm barely hid her concern. "Didn't you hear what Buffy said about the quills being poisoned?"

The door opened, Celeste leading the way. She was quickly followed by Xander and Robin carrying an obviously pained Kennedy into the room, then Faith, Marie, Vi and Rona. "Kennedy!" Willow jumped up, alarmed.

"I'm alright, Will. They're all panicking.... Ow!" She jerked as Robin and Xander placed her on a sofa as gently as possible.

Faith shook her head. "Actually, it's not too bad. Giles took a look before we left the demons' lair. She got some poison, but he had the antidote you made ready. He's just gone to find a first aid kit."

The door burst open as she spoke. Giles, Buffy and Amelia ran into the room, Giles carrying an impressive red and white box. "Benedict said he had a feeling something might go wrong. He had this waiting for us." Giles halted beside the wounded slayer. Now Kennedy, let me look."

Kennedy lifted her shirt, afraid of the reaction of others. There were a few gasps, but at least nobody collapsed. She winced when she felt Giles probe the area. Feeling somebody grip her other hand, she looked up to see Willow standing beside her, obviously trying to put on a brave face. It didn't stop Kennedy screaming or passing out when Giles pressed against her wound.

When she came to, Kennedy found herself covered in a blanket, and a pillow under her head. Feeling near her wound, she realized Giles had repaired the damage and dressed it without her regaining consciousness once. She turned at a sound behind her. "Hey."

"Hey yourself." Willow leant over her girlfriend. "I just gotta say. Don't you ever do that again!"

Kennedy smiled. "No Ma'am."

"Giles said there's no major damage, but you'll need plenty of rest for the next few days. And you won't be doing any slaying for a couple of weeks. In fact, none of you are. Vi and Rona have volunteered their services, and those of the others over the Christmas break. So we can all spend some quality time together."

Kennedy yawned, then looked at Willow. She lifted her hand, to stroke the pale one resting on the top of the sofa. "Time for all of us to say goodbye?"

The look of heartbreak on the witch's face almost broke the slayer's heart. Plenty of time for that later though. When she said goodbye to this remarkable woman in a few days. "Yeah. Time for us to say goodbye." Willow stood, then moved around the sofa. Sitting beside her lover, she tried to smile but failed when the tears fell. Kennedy opened her arms, allowing Willow to fall into them. Grunting a little against the pain, she held her girlfriend close, cuddling her, for a moment, against the pain that was to come.

On The Eighth Day Of Christmas My True Love Sent To Me
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 Nine