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

"You're running out of time."


"Until we get our 'nine'. Nothing's shown up yet."

"And that has to do with me, because.?"

She smiled cheekily. "Because."

Rupert Giles sat watching his companion across the table, enjoying how the light from the candle flame danced along her golden skin. He smiled as she picked up another portion of cake and placed it gently into her mouth, her look of ecstasy giving testimony to the quality of the confection. He lifted the brandy goblet in his left hand, sipping the excellent brandy held within it, savoring the feel of it as it slid down its throat. "I take it you like my suggestion?"

Buffy looked up guiltily, the fork still in her mouth from another tasting. She hadn't known what to have for dessert, so Giles had suggested a small sliver of each one that she'd fancied. She glanced down at her plate, as if realizing that she'd almost finished the lot off. She scowled at him. "No. Look what you made me do. It was very naughty of you."

"And there I thought I was being nice." He leaned forward slightly, as if to impart a great secret. "Do you think Santa will forgive me?"

"Only if you've been good." Her scolding continued the same bantering tone they'd been using all night.

He sent her a sultry look. "Oh, I'm always good."

He smiled when a blush dusted her skin. "Rupert! Not in public."

"Why, Buffy. I've embarrassed you."

She looked around, obviously afraid they'd been overheard. "This isn't Sunnydale. There are certain." she paused, her mouth slightly open as she realized what she was saying. "Dear God, when did Grandma Summers possess my body?"

He pretended to look affronted. "Tell her to get out of there. I'm the only one allowed to possess your body."

Buffy giggled, her napkin rising to try and cover the sound from their neighbors. "You are incorrigible."

He moved forward, rubbing his fingers over the back of her free hand. "That's why you love me."

She sighed. "I'm afraid it is."

He indicated the exit with his head. She nodded in agreement. Dropping money for their meal and a tip on the plate the waiter had discreetly left earlier, he rose, catching her hand as he did. They made their way to the entry, allowing the Maitre d' time to arrange for their coats to be delivered. As much as he wanted his love to be warm when they left, he felt it a pity to cover up such a beautiful dress. It had taken his breath away when he'd seen it. Then again, she managed to do that almost any time she came into his view. Donning his own overcoat, he grabbed her now-covered arm, escorted her from the restaurant, and nodded at the carolers standing outside the restaurant, singing one of his favorite Christmas songs.

They walked along the Thames, enjoying the reflection of the lights on the river's surface. The air was cool, but not overly so, and a light sprinkle of rain dampened their hair. Yet neither was willing to end the evening soon. They so rarely had time to themselves, and so when Rona and Vi had offered to take over the slaying, they'd decided to take advantage of what might be the last of a quiet period. A general air of melancholia had hit the group, and Giles had wanted Buffy to have a break before having to farewell so many people.

'Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even;'

Smiling at the group singing nearby, they allowed the seasonal atmosphere to chase away their sad thoughts. They paused near one of the bridges, waving at a brightly festooned riverboat as it sailed by. Other boats, large and small, moving and stationary, dotted the river, their occupants celebrating the coming days with as much noise as possible. Giles pointed. "Just over the other side of the river is where my father used to take us on weekends. We'd play in a park nearby, and have ice creams and sticky buns."

Buffy sighed, her head pressed against his arm. "I wish we could do that now." If she wondered at his silent chuckle, she didn't tax him at it.

"So do I, love. But it's a different time now. And I wouldn't swap this for all the sticky buns in the world." He looked down at her, his eyes crinkling with happiness. She was smiling up at him. It was only natural to move toward each other and share a kiss of shared moments.

As one they moved on, walking along the embankment, nodding to strangers they passed, commenting on the various Christmas decorations they saw. They moved further out of the populated areas, and into those places that any sane person would not venture. But as they were both slightly insane, and he had a slayer as his companion, Giles was more inclined to feel some compassion for any would-be muggers.

After about an hour of walking, they stopped again. Buffy had grown quieter as they made their way through the streets of London. It had been quite a while since she'd spoken anything without his prompting. He knew where her mind was, and he understood her sadness. He was battling with his own. Wrapping his arm around her, he drew her closer to his side. They looked across the now-darkened river, listening to the sounds of night.

"It's kind of ironic, you know?" He looked down at her in query. "We stayed together through it all. The danger, the possible destruction of the world, our meanness to each other. No matter what, we always found our way back together. Now, when we have the chance of a future, we're breaking apart."

He kissed the top of her head. "Sometimes it's easier to stay when you're fighting to be together. When the fighting stops, that's when you find out what you have in common. The family isn't breaking up, love, just following different paths for a while."

She sighed. "I can understand Willow. Aunt Agatha can help her so much. Even I realized that. But Xander."

He chastised her. "Would you have him forsake his destiny to be with you?" Her head dropped. "All these years he's measured his worth by others. His parents, you, Willow, even Anya. Now he has a chance to find his own worth. Would you take that away from him?"

Again, they heard carolers in the background. There were other pedestrians around, but not enough to be disturbed. This was the best chance they had to have this discussion.

'Ding Dong Merrily On High
In heav'n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv'n with angel singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! '

"No. I just wish he didn't have to do it in another continent." He stiffened beside her as he realized what she was saying. "I'm not stupid, Rupert. No matter the evidence to the contrary. Your work is here. And my place is with you. Besides, don't think I didn't see those English University brochures you got for Dawn.and those guys sound a lot like the carolers from the restaurant."

They both turned at once. "And when we stopped before. In fact, I'd be tempted to say they were the same ones."

There were nine of them in all. They stood in the shadows, their faces hidden from view. They sang their song with obvious enthusiasm, but great harmony. They nodded toward Giles and Buffy, but began faltering in their song when they realized the couple wasn't moving along.

"Giles, are they.?"

Giles narrowed his eyes. He thought there was something strange about them. "Demons!"

They must have been heard because the singers stopped altogether, and one rushed forward. "Wait, please!" He lifted his hand in entreaty. He was a demon, or more likely half-demon, half human. "We don't mean any harm. We just wanted to thank you."

Giles and Buffy looked at each other in confusion, then turned back to the demon. "For what?"

"For last night. We were what the monsters you killed were hunting."

"Wait a minute. We killed a bunch of demons to protect a bunch of demons? That doesn't make sense."

"Oh, of course." Giles felt rather stupid. He should have realized. "I wondered why they were attacking humans. I should have known."

"Oh. How's the little slayer?" Concern was evident in the demon's voice.

Giles' lips twitched at the description of Kennedy. "She's fine, thank you. She won't be going anywhere for the next few days, but she's a slayer. She'll heal very fast."

The demon sighed. "Phew. That's a relief. I'd hate to think she was seriously hurt because of us, or that she'd missed out on Christmas. That'd be a real disaster." Murmurs of agreement could be heard behind him.

" Christmas?" Giles felt rather foolish asking.

"Are you serious?" The demon's whole demeanor became excited. "It's the best human holiday ever. Christmas trees, and good wishes, and great presents, and all that brandy pudding." He leaned in closely. "Yogur over there says it's his favorite, but I think it's just the brandy part he likes. Oh, forgive my manners. I'm Ogur." He shook hands with slayer and watcher. "And this is Auger, Bogur, Selag, Melag, Nelag, Helag, and young Dogur." Buffy giggled at their similar names. "I know, nobody gets them right, but hey, your names are weird to us too."

Giles smiled as he remembered an incident from his past. "By the time I reached my 30's, my mother started heating the brandy sauce in the microwave. One year she mixed up the seconds and minutes." He shook his head. "When we heard the bang we thought some demons were after us. Fortunately, she blew up the brandy, not the house."

Buffy and the demons laughed. Ogur looked at the slayer. "Oh, are you Buffy?" At her nod, he continued. "Clem says hey."

Buffy smiled at him. "You know Clem?"

"He's dating my sister. Don't know what she sees in all that flesh, but you can't tell teenagers." He looked around. People were looking at them all curiously. Fortunately, they weren't near enough to realize what was different about the nine demons. "Well, we better get back in the shadows. It's almost time for our concert at the park, anyway."

Buffy lifted her hand. "Wait. You sing every year?"

"Of course. It's our contribution to the season. Well, folks, thanks again. And if there's anything we can do for you, just give us a hoy." He waved back at them as he and his fellow carolers left.

Buffy and Giles looked at each other then started giggling. "Maybe we should have put them in touch with Angel's friend, Lorne? He could have gotten them some Vegas bookings."

Giles shook his head. "I have a feeling it'd be too commercial for them." He paused. "You know that this means, of course?"

She looked at him curiously. "No. What?"

"You've got your nine." In the background they could hear Big Ben chime the midnight hour.

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