Season of Giving
By GylzGirl

Title: Season of Giving 1/3
Author: Tricia Stewart (GylzGirl)
Email: gylzgirl@softcom.net
Disclaimer: Joss and the Fox Conglomerate own the characters. I only own the story.
Distribution: Solo, Anya, WW, HeadQuarters, my ASH Shrine. Anyone else, ask
first please.
Rating: PG-14
Pairing: B/G
Feedback: Yes please. No flames.
Spoliers: Everything through Something Blue is fair game.
Author's notes: Started off as a response to Darcie's challenge but I don't think I remembered all the required items. Yes, Tricia the Angst Fairy can write something a little happier....I think :). Happy holiday of your choice. Thanks to Meawan and Kazza for beta help.


Rupert Giles rolled out of bed, his head throbbing under the onslaught of an eggnog hangover. Actually it was a brandy hangover, the eggnog it had been mixed in was now merely a bad tasting coating on his leaden tongue. He stumbled into his bathroom and shut the door. A fresh shave and shower later, he emerged, got dressed and headed downstairs to concoct his tried and true hangover remedy.

He walked quietly through his darkened living room, attempting not to wake his four young friends currently occupying his sofa, chair and floor. Giles entered the kitchen and threw his potion together, downing it in one gulp so as not to have to fully experience its fruity, mediciney taste. As the pain began to lessen, he walked to the living room and sat at his dining table. He looked out at his sleeping friends, barely visible in the light from the kitchen, and smiled.

Like Thanksgiving this year, the gang had decided that Giles' house was where they would be spending a good majority of their Christmas Day. This prompted the previous night's tree trimming party one week prior to Christmas. They had gone out and bought a tree almost too big to fit through the door. There had been cookies, music, decorating, nog and the rare and sorely missed element of laughter. Now they slept and for the first time in three years, everything felt right in Giles' world.

His gaze wandered down to his table top and the stack of envelopes that sat on it. It had been a whim of his younger companions that they all write letters to Santa and mail them in the morning. They had argued that if vampires could exist, why couldn't Santa Claus? Spike had even been encouraged to join in, several Egg Nogs into the gathering.

Giles' hand touched the top of the letters. He was debating whether to open them and read them. They had not gotten around to sealing them the night before. He cast one more glance at their slumbering bodies, snoring lightly in the near-dark and made up his mind. They would have told Santa what their hearts truly wanted, that was the point of it. That's what he had done in his letter. He decided if he could do anything to bring them their heart's desires, then that was what he would do, even if it meant playing Santa himself.

He took the envelope on the top of the stack and slid the letter out. It was Xander's.

Dear Santa,

Hi it's me. Xander. Alexander Harris? I know I haven't written in a long time, but I haven't believed that good stuff and I were something that was supposed to cross paths. But I have Anya now and that's been pretty good. I mean, she's a babe. And she really likes me. And well okay yeah demon, well ex-demon. But I ususally catch girls in the full demon stage so I can live with that being in her past. So I'm going to take a chance and do this letter thing. So here goes. My big wish is to grow old with the friends that I have now. Buffy, Willow, Anya and Giles. I don't want any of us to die because I don't want the rest of us to have to try to make it without that person. Just let us die peacefully in bed when we're wrinkly and grey, a few happies and a person to share that with between here and there and we'll call it good okay? That's what I really want. If you have any time left over after that, I'd really like to get a steady enough job so that I can move out of my parent's basement. Oh, and a blue and purple Koosh ball if you can find one. Don't ask. Let's just say there are just some things that you can't explain without a visual aide and one misplaced pop culture reference and Anya will not let it drop until she understands it, okay?

Thanks,
Xander L. Harris

Giles grinned as he carefully refolded the letter and placed it back inside its envelope. The next one he opened was Anya's.

Santa,

I tried to explain to Xander that it was very unlikely that you existed but he insisted that you might and said that I was being a "party pooper" by saying otherwise. I'm not really sure what that is, but it doesn't sound good so I don't think I want to be it. Plus, he asked me nicely. He's really cute when he does that. So for no other reason than Xander wanted me to, I'm going to do the most dangerous thing that I know of to do. I'm going to wish. My deepest wish is simple. Love. I want it. I spent centuries detesting the word, seeing only the pain and cruelty it left in its aftermath when it went bad, or worse, was unrequited. Now I know why people put themselves through it. The good part of it is unlike anything else in existence. I want Xander to love me, because, I love him, desperately. I want his friends to be my friends because I love them for making him laugh and accepting me because they love him. Love, love, love okay? That's what I want. Give that to me. Um, please? Xander says I should say please instead of demanding all the time. He says it puts people off. So please give me Xander's love and we won't have a problem Fat Man.

Anyanka

P.S. What the Hell *is* a Koosh ball?! Nobody will tell me! Oh and I'd like a stuffed bear. Please. No bunnies though.

Giles found himself laughing audibly at Anya's letter, then put a hand over his mouth to see if he'd woken anyone up. When he was sure that they all still slept, he put her letter away and opened the next. It was Willow's.

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

I know I've only written you once before, and that was at Xander's house because my parents wouldn't let me. I've decided that you're not the symbol of the dogmatic Christian religious tactic of trying to assimilate everything non-Christian with seemingly non-threatening and appealing icons that my Mom thinks you are. Instead, to me, you mean the spirit of the season, whatever you want to call that season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, December). You're the need to acknowlege the love you feel for others and the need to be acknowledged as being loved by them. You're the embodiment of what we're all feeling tonight. The laughing, the happiness at being safe and together. I think that's what you are and with that in mind, I'd like to tell you what I want for this season.

I want to be a whole person again. I want to stop being a bother to my friends. I'm trying to be a good girl, brave little trooper Willow you know? I don't want them to get sick of me. It's just that I hurt so much. I've never hurt like this before and I don't know how to deal with it. I want to know if I should wait for Oz or move on. And how do I move on? I'm in limbo right now. I don't know where to go from here, I just know that I'm in pain. I guess, I just want the hurt to stop. So if it's not too selfish, I want the pain to stop please? Now, for the others, I want the same for Buffy and Giles. They're both so lonely and hurting from it. I want them happy. And Xander and Anya? Um, keep doing whatever it is you're doing there. It seems to be working. Just if you have some extra tolerance or acceptance dust over there somewhere, maybe throw some of it down on me so that I don't blow it for him okay? Did I leave anybody out? Oh Spike. Um do vampires get to have a holiday? I mean, I know he's all mean and grr. Or was. He just looks so unhappy and scared. Could you maybe send him something that will make him happy? Something that doesn't kill anybody or gross us all out like when he was making out with Buffy? I think that will just about do it.

Thank you for listening,
Willow Rosenberg

"Sweet Willow," Giles shook his head. Spike was right, it seemed. She really was hanging by a thread. Why was it a vampire could see it when all of her friends could not?

He steadied himself for the next letter he opened, Spike's

Dear Father Christmas,

Remember me? The little boy who wrote you a century or so back and asked you why you took away his parents for Christmas? Yeah. Thought you might remember that. Well guess what? I'm a vampire now. Boo!

I think writing you is about as daft as it gets but Willow wanted me to. She promised me she'd let me have more cookies if I did. So I'm doing it.

First, I'd like to ask you a question. They say your belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly? Do you think it would taste like it too? God I'm hungry. That's what I'd like for Christmas. I'd like to be fixed please. The sooner the better. If I can't be fully back up to form, biting people and the like, then could I at least be allowed to hit somebody? I'm useless this way and I can't stand it. It sucks. No pun intended.

Barring all of that, I'd really like it if Willow wasn't afraid of me. I don't know if she is any more or not. She certainly was the night I went to her room to bite her. I always dug that look of fear before. But not on her. On her it makes me feel, I don't know, dirty. She's afraid enough. I quite like the little witch. She talks to me when I'm lonely and she makes good cookies. I know her pain. I felt it when Dru left me.

Giles and Buffy, I'd like them to quit pussyfooting around and just do it already. He mopes around here all alone. I think he's actually grateful for *my* company. And Buffy keeps falling for the wrong men because she's fighting what she feels for Giles. I learned that from watching Oprah.

So to recap. Restoration of Bad Ass Status. Happy Willow. Shagging Watcher and Slayer. Oh and if you could maybe spare a couple of your elves for Christmas dinner? You know, the ones you don't like very much?

Cheers Mate,
Spike

Giles coughed and quickly put the letter away. If Spike got any more observant, he might have to stake him. He looked back to the table. There was only one letter left, he realized with some trepidation. Buffy's. He inhaled deeply before opening it.

Dear Santa Claus,

Hi. It's Buffy. I know from my track record that Slayers don't really get to have their wishes come true. But, I'm going to ask anyway. I'd like Xander and Anya to keep being happy. I'd like Willow to find her happy again. Giles needs someone to make him happy. So do I. I need someone like Giles. Dangerous without being mean, nice without being bland. Someone I can be with without endangering them. If I just knew there was someone out there who could feel that way about me, I'd feel better. I guess that's it.

Thanks and all,
Buffy

P.S.
Riley needs a really nice girl. Preferably from one of the middle states.

P.P.S.
Oh, and if Parker Abrams were to become impotent for some strange reason, I wouldn't hate that.

Giles quicky put the letter back in it's envelope and stacked them on top of his own on the tabletop. As the sky outside his windows began to lighten, he crept his way back upstairs. He only had a week before Christmas and he had a lot of planning to do.

**************

In a half hour, everyone was awake and enjoying a breakfast made by Buffy and Giles. Even Spike had been brought out from the bathroom and was happily sipping a warm cup of pig's blood from Giles' "Kiss the Librarian" mug. When they were all finished, Xander and Anya were washing the dishes, having more fun splashing each other then doing any real progress on their cleanliness. Buffy and Willow were straightening Giles' living room, putting away the extra blankets and pillows. Giles sat at his table, licking each envelope of the Santa letters shut and affixing it with a postage stamp.

"Oh hey Will, we've got to get back to campus."

Giles looked up at her. "But it's Sunday morning."

She smiled. "It's the Sunday before Christmas and there is a massive sale going on down at the Galleria. The money and the lists are back at the dorm. We've gotta book or it'll be mayhem."

Willow nodded. "You should have seen her last week when she was getting Giles' pre..."

"Willow!" Buffy glared.

"Uh right. Well anyway, we didn't get there till noon and I thought Buffy was going to slay this one lady."

"Well she grabbed that purse once it was already in my hands. How much ruder could she get?"

"You got Giles a purse?" Xander was met by three sets of glares and one amused vampire. He gulped and went back to splashing his girlfriend.

"All right then, well try not to stake any housewives in your pursuit of gifts today," Giles grinned.

"I'm not making any promises." Buffy picked up the stack of letters and dropped them into her purse. "I'll mail these tomorrow." In a flash, the girls were out the door.

Giles turned Spike's chair toward the television set and clicked it on. "Cool. Cartoons. Get that bloody roadrunner!"

Xander emerged from the kitchen, towing Anya by the hand. "Giles, is there anything else you needed?"

"Hmm? No no thank you, both." Anya smiled at the acknowledgement and gripped Xander's hand tighter.

"Okay then, see ya later?" At Giles nod, the twosome left.

"Oh not ACME again! You stupid git! What are you thinking?!"

Giles went upstairs, leaving Spike to rant alone. He had calls to make and things to prepare for.

******

"Okay Willow, how are we doing this? Splitting up or double teaming?"

"Together we are an unbeatable force."

"Indeed. Throw on something push and tug resistant and we'll hit the warzone." Someone began to knock on their door. They exchanged a questioning look then Buffy went to answer it. When she did, a boy their age stood before her with a large bouquet of flowers. "Oh my God! Blue Staccato Irises! Those are my favorite!"

The boy smiled. "Are you Buffy Summers?"

"I sure am," her smile was giddy.

"Then these are for you. Sign here please." He held out a clipboard for her to put her signature on and then handed her the bouquet.

"Wow! You think it was Riley?" Willow asked as Buffy closed the door.

"No way. He's not even in town. He's home for Christmas."

Willow hesitated, then asked, "Angel?"

Buffy shook her head. "Almost no one knows I like these."

"Well it's a very specific favorite to have."

"We used to go down to the botanical gardens a lot when I was little. Oh hey, maybe they're from Dad? Or Mom? After all, she's going to be in New England until after the first of the year."

"Is there a card?"

"Huh? Oh God I'm dense." Buffy set the vase on her dresser and retrieved the envelope from inside. "It's not a card. It's a letter." She unfolded the paper inside to find perfectly printed caligraphy.

"Well what's it say? Or is it X-Rated calligraphy?"

"Dear Buffy. I hope you enjoy the flowers. I'm afraid they aren't an adequete expression of what I feel for you, but take them as a well meant token all the same. I don't know how to say what I need to say other than to just come right out with it. I love you. I've loved you for so very long now that it's become a part of me. I have no intentions of interfereing in your life. To love you from afar is enough for me. It's more than I should be allowed really and I am grateful for it. You're so beautiful, so brave, so strong, so kind. I know everything about you. I hope that doesn't scare you. I've just payed careful attention where you were concerned. If you knew who I was, you wouldn't love me. I wouldn't expect you to. Just know that you are the light in my world." Buffy choked back a sob.

"Oh my God! Who signed it?!"

She shook her head. "He didn't."

"There's no signature?!"

"No."

"Buffy, that was...that was just..."

"Incredible."

"Yeah," Willow sighed. Several moments passed with both girls just staring from the letter, to the flowers, to each other, and back again. "You still want to go shopping?"

Buffy nodded. As Willow changed, Buffy carefully placed the letter in the drawer next to her diary.

******

Giles opened his wallet and produced a small slip of paper with a phone number hurridly scrawled on it. He sat on his bed with his phone in his lap and dialed the number.

"This is Oz. I'm not home." *Beep*

He took a deep breath. "Oz, it's Giles. Are you there?" Pause. "No? Well I don't need to speak to you in person to tell you this. Come home. Now. You said you didn't want to hurt Willow. Well, you're killing her. Come home and tell her it's over and you're never coming back. Come home and tell her you're here to stay. I don't care which. Just decide. This leaving her guessing is completely unforgiveable. If you don't rectify this by Christmas, you had better not come back to Sunnydale ever again. I won't stand by and see her treated this way." He hung up the phone and stood.

As he started to walk away, the phone rang. He rushed to it and picked up. "Oz? Oh hello Mr. Shaye. Yes? Yes I have some time now. Yes I'd very much like to see the property. I'll meet you there in an hour. Thank you." He hung up once more and grabbed his jacket on the way out of the house.

******

Three days later, Giles asked Xander to meet him on Cypress Street. When he saw him walking up, he tried to keep the smile off of his face. "Hey Giles, what's going on?"

"I have something I need to show you."

"At 10 a.m.?"

He couldn't help but smile. "This wouldn't wait." He pulled out a ring with five keys on it and signaled for him to follow as he walked two buildings down to the empty three story building on the corner. Xander was more than a little surprised when Giles walked to the door of that building and unlocked it with his keys. He held the door open until Xander entered and then followed him in.

"Well?"

"Well what Giles?"

"What do you think?"

"Uh, I think it's a big ol' empty building. What's going on?"

"I bought it."

"What?"

"I took some of the money from my trust account and bought this building."

"I'd have thought they might have cut you off when the Council...you know."

"This was an inheritance from my maternal grandfather. The Council had no say in the matter. I'm going to open an occult bookstore."

Xander smiled and patted Giles on the back. "Sounds perfect G-Man. Gotta lot of room here."

"Three floors of it. I'm going to use the main floor for the shop obviously. The third floor is spacious enough to house the books we rescued from the library, store the bigger weapons and still provide me with room to train with Buffy."

"Why did you want to tell just me? Or did you already tell Buffy and Willow?"

"No. You're the only one that knows so far. I asked you here because I wanted to know if you were available for employment."

Xander shrugged. "Sure. You want me to help you clean it up and move the books and stuff over from your place?"

"Well there is that yes, but I'm also going to need a full time manager for the store. Someone to do the hiring and firing, help do the ordering, run the day to day aspects of it."

Xander looked confused. "And you want...me?"

"I don't know how much I can pay you at first..."

"I'll take it!"

"Well there is one catch."

"What? I have to work in a tutu? Cause I'm telling you, at this point, I'd consider it."

"No. It's just that as I said, we'll be moving some rare volumes and difficult to replace weapons over here and I would just feel better if there were someone here. I plan to turn the second floor into a living space. Now if I can't find someone to move in up there, I may have to give up my place. I don't really want to do that. I was somewhat hoping you'd agree to move in?"

Xander was swallowing almost convulsively, trying not to cry. Giles just smiled at him. "Well, what do you say?"

The younger man wrapped him in a hug that nearly threw him off of his feet. His smile grew bigger as he hugged back. "Thank you."

"Is that a yes Xander?"

They pulled apart and Xander quickly wiped away a tear. "It's a big yes."

"Good. I was thinking we could hire Willow on to keep the books and do the payroll. Buffy to work in the store, slaying permitting of course. Anya too if she'd like."

"I think she'd love. Can I go tell them?"

"Absolutely." He reached into his pocket and produced a ring of keys identical to his own. "These are yours." Xander hurridly took the keys and began to run out of the store.

"Oh and Xander?" He stopped at the door and turned to face him. "Upstairs will be your place you know? You could invite someone to move in with you, if that's what you wanted. You wouldn't have to ask my permission."

Xander smiled as he nodded his understanding. "Thanks Giles."

******

On Christmas Eve, Giles woke Spike as soon as the sun had set. The rest of the Scooby Gang was due at his house in about a half an hour for some last minute cookie making and to drop the presents off for the next day. The blond vampire was not so sure he had woken up for the first few minutes. When Giles came in, he completely unlocked him and extended his hand to help him stand up.

"No more chains?"

Giles shrugged. "Not unless you make them necessary. You can't go out in the daytime, can't go out at night without risking the solidiers recapturing you, can't hurt any of us if you wanted to and can't obtain blood to sustain yourself on your own anymore. If I let you go, why would you run?"

Spike frowned. "Fair cop."

"Follow me." Giles left the bathroom and Spike trailed behind him.

"Where're we off to?"

Giles didn't answer him, merely leading him further down the hallway to the last door on the left. He opened the door and flipped a light switch. Spike followed him down the short staircase to a small room. There were no windows and only one lamp aside from the hanging bulb in the middle of the ceiling. There was a simple cot with a pillow and a couple blankets along one side of the room. A chair sat in front of an old trunk on which the television rested. The only other furnishing was a small refrigerator with an even smaller microwave oven upon it.

"What's this?"

"Well, now that I've finally gotten the boxes out of here and over to the shop, I decided I'd really appreciate having my bathroom back. That left you sort of...homeless. So I fixed this up."

"This is...this is all mine?"

"You have a small refrigerator to keep the blood from going bad. A microwave to heat it up. A place to sleep."

"But this is mine?"

"Small price to pay for my bathroom back."

"You're giving me the telly?"

Giles smiled. "I bought a better one for the living room."

"This is mine?"

"Yes it's yours. Now will you please stop saying that?"

"Well... ta!"

"You're welcome." Giles started back up the stairs.

"Giles?" He stopped. "I promise if I ever do get fixed, I won't eat you."

"Oh. Thanks very much. Do come up later for cookies."

He shook his head as the ridiculous nature of what he'd just said hit him. He ascended the rest of the way and shut the door behind him. Spike flopped down onto his bed with a smile as he turned on the television.

******

"So as of January 15th, which is when Giles and I figure we might be ready enough to have Le Grande Opening, we are all gainfully employed," Xander said as he sat with Buffy on her bed.

"And as of the end of next week, you'll have your own non-basementy place to live," Anya added with a smile as she sat with Willow on her bed.

"Been meaning to talk to you about that. Giles said that the place is mine and that I can do what I like. So I was sorta wondering if maybe...you'd like to move in with me...maybe. You know, see if we like it?"

"Xander!" Anya lept up and into his arms, knocking him flat on his back on Buffy's bed. Buffy smiled and moved to Willow's bed as Anya began to kiss Xander indiscriminately all over his face. "You were right!"

Xander managed to wrestle up to a sitting position with Anya draped across his lap. "I was right about what?"

"Writing to Santa! He really does give you what you ask for."

Xander smiled. "He really did this year. This was exactly what I told him I wanted."

Buffy's eyes widened as she realized that the gang's Santa letters were still inside her purse. She had forgotten to mail them last Monday.

Anya clasped Xander's hand and began kissing his neck. "So Buff, what's with the indoor garden?" He indicated the dozen or so vases filled with flowers around the room.

Willow smiled. "Buffy has a secret admirer."

"Do tell. You've been holding back on me."

"Well it started last Sunday with flowers. Since then there's been a bouquet every day."

"Sometimes two!" Willow grinned.

"Willow!" Buffy smiled.

"And candy, and poems, and letters and..."

Buffy clamped a hand over her best friend's mouth and they both disolved into giggles.

"And you don't know who it is? Even from the letters?"

Buffy went to her drawer and removed the most recent letter. "That's why they call it a *secret* admirer Xand. He doesn't sign any of the letters." She handed it to him.

"Wow, pretty nifty writing there." He read the letter up and down and then looked at her. "I think I know why he's so shy. I think it may be a professor here or something like that."

"What makes you say that?"

"Just the language that he uses, the way he phrases things. I think it's gotta be an older guy. I mean it sounds like something Giles would say."

She blinked twice. "What?"

"Speaking of Giles. Guys, we're gonna be late unless we go right now."

Xander looked down at his watch. "Eep! Willow's right. We gotta book." Everyone but Buffy grabbed their coats. When they noticed she hadn't, they turned to look at her.

"Buffy?" Willow looked concerned. Her friend seemed to be in a whole other world.

Buffy blinked then smiled at them. "I'm gonna catch up. I want to do a patrol first. Go ahead and start without me."

The three exchanged puzzled looks then picked up the bags of presents. As soon as they had shut the door behind them, Buffy ran to her purse and dumped it's contents out on her bed. She grabbed the letters, sat on the floor and began to open them.

***************

Father Christmas,

I think this is a waste of paper but Buffy asked me to do it so I am. If you do exist, which I'm not inclined to believe mind you, then you must already know my heart's greatest desire. I won't utter it out loud. I won't even commit it to paper. To name it makes it more real. Makes it more of something I will never have. If you're real, you must have seen her, watched her as I have. You must already know the reasons why I lost my heart so foolishly.

Instead I make the most important Christmas wish that I can think to. Far more important than the heartache of one lonely soul. Keep her alive. Whatever higher being might be reading this and have the power to do so, please keep her alive. If ever you need a life, I offer mine whole-heartedly. Let her live. Let her find true love and happiness. Let her live.

If I can have one selfishness, let me be in her life for as long as I might live. In exchange for that, I can swallow my daydreams of holding her to me as I sleep, a wedding, children, teasing her about her first gray hairs. Never take the sight of that beautiful face from me.

Rupert Giles

"Oh my God." Buffy wiped a tear and glanced around the room at the sea of flowers surrounding her. He'd played Santa for Xander and Anya, giving them what they wished for in their letters. When they'd written them, they'd left them unsealed and he was the first person up that morning. She realized he must have read them in order to give them what they really wanted.

Buffy dug around the pile, searching for her own letter. She found it and skimmed it over.

"Giles needs someone to make him happy. So do I. I need someone like Giles. Dangerous without being mean, nice without being bland. Someone I can be with without endangering them. If I just knew there was someone out there who could feel that way about me, I'd feel better. I guess that's it."

She'd asked to know that someone could love her. He'd let her know the only way he knew how without revealing himself to her. He'd been her Santa too. She stood up and retrieved the first letter from her Secret Admirer.

"I love you. I've loved you for so very long now that it's become a part of me. I have no intentions of interfereing in your life. To love you from afar is enough for me. It's more than I should be allowed really and I am grateful for it. You're so beautiful, so brave, so strong, so kind. I know everything about you. I hope that doesn't scare you. I've just payed careful attention where you were concerned. If you knew who I was, you wouldn't love me. I wouldn't expect you to. Just know that you are the light in my world."

Buffy held the letter close to her heart. "I need someone like Giles." She shook her head. "I *need* Giles." She stood up and looked at the clock, smiling. If she hurried, she could make it to the store before it closed.

******

Giles watched as Xander and Anya laid the gifts they had brought under the tree. He had been a little disappointed that Buffy had not shown up yet but at least his little stab at playing Santa had made Xander and Anya happy. He could even hear Willow laughing in the kitchen as Spike kept whining at her to let him eat some of the cookie dough and she kept slapping his hands away.

Soon there was a knock on the door. Giles went and answered it, expecting to find Buffy. "Willow. It's for you."

Willow came over to the doorway and froze.

"Hi Will," Oz smiled weakly.

"Hey," Willow said very quietly.

Spike wandered over behind where Willow stood. Oz's eyes grew wide. "What's Spike doing here?"

The vampire smiled, walked right up behind Willow and slid a proprietorial arm around her shoulders. "Let's just say there've been quite a few changes 'round here since you decided to bugger off, Mate."

"Get your hands off of her."

Spike smirked. "Why's that?"

"Cause she's my girl." Oz looked at Willow. He looked truly afraid. "Are you still my girl?"

Willow folded her arms over her chest and leaned back slightly against Spike. To Oz it no doubt looked as thought they'd become very close. To everyone else in the room, they knew Spike's physical presence was very likely the only thing keeping Willow on her feet. "I-I don't know. Like Spike said, there have been changes since you... ran away."

"Changes in the way you feel about me?"

"I...I don't know."

Oz glanced at Spike again before turning his attention back to Willow. "Come sit outside and talk with me? Just for a little while?"

She looked to Giles who nodded at her with a gentle smile. She took a step forward. Spike stopped her with his hand on her shoulder. When she turned to look at him, he smiled and handed her her coat. "I'll be right outside." She exited and closed the door behind her.

"I'll go and finish making the cookies," Anya offered.

"I'll help you." Xander followed her into the kitchen.

Spike went to the sofa and propped his feet up in front of Giles' new color tv as it played "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". Giles cleared his throat. "Well, I guess I'll go and get the rest of the gifts out of the back closet." He disappeared down the hall.

Giles loaded his arms with the wrapped gifts he had gotten his little family. He thought he heard his front door shut and headed back toward the living room. When he came back in, he peeked inside the kitchen. Xander and Anya were standing against the wall, making out.

Giles rolled his eyes and made his way to the tree, setting the gifts down under it. Spike slid off the couch and knelt beside him. "Hmm, teddy bear," he said, pointing to one package. "Koosh balls," he stated, indicating another. Spike's eyes grew wide as he realized that there were two or three gifts that were addressed to him, although they all said 'From Santa', no doubt so that no one would have to admit shopping for him.

When Giles stood, he glanced out the window, noticing with a smile that Willow and Oz were holding each other tightly and kissing on his veranda. A puzzled expression then crossed his face. "Who was at the door?"

Spike moved back to sit on the couch again. "Oh. Your wayward Slayer."

He smiled. "Buffy's here?"

"Buffy said to say that she discovered the man she's been waiting for tonight and wanted to go be with him."

Giles felt his chest tighten. He attempted to smile but it looked like more of a wince. "Oh?"

"She left you a present upstairs. She said it was my responsibility to make sure you went up and opened it immediately or she'd stake me next time she saw me." Spike looked up at him. "So do me a favor? Save me a bit of ventilation and go open your prezzie?"

Giles sighed and made his way up the stairs. In the far corner of his room was a large red drawstring bag with a sizeable bulge in it. He went to it and tried to lift it by the strings. It was heavy enough that it wouldn't budge. He lowered himself to his knees before it, tugged the top open and pushed the bag down.

>From inside the confines of the bag, Buffy uncurled herself and stood before him. Giles looked up in surprise, finding himself directly across from her knees. He took in her outfit and gasped. She wore a red micro-mini skirt with white fir around the bottom and a low cut red half-shirt with white fir around the cuffs and collar. He blinked a few times before he found his voice. "Buffy?"

She smiled and reached down to take hold of his collar. She reeled him up by it gently until he stood in front of her. "I know who you are. I'd like you to interfere in my life please. I'd like to talk about you holding me to you as you sleep." She touched her hand to his trembling lips, fascinated by their softness. "I love you Giles." She moved forward to aquire her first taste of those lips. At first the kiss was gentle, tentative. Then Buffy licked at him and he opened for her. As soon as their tongues made contact, Giles accepted that this was not just another dream. This was his Christmas wish, his heart's desire come true. He slid his arms behind her, lifting her from her bag and carrying her to his bed. He lay her down and then moved beside her. He touched her cheek as he looked into her eyes. "I love you Buffy."

She brought her hand to his cheek and stroked it, mimicking his own actions. Buffy smiled at him. "Merry Christmas Santa baby." He smiled then too, tears coming to his eyes as she kissed him again.

END