Tinsel
By JBG

Tinsel

By JBG

Timeline: Set after the last episode of the year... whatever the name is... with the hope that it isn't Jossed beyond belief.
Premise: An annoying Christmas Formal becomes something more. Not a part of any previous universe, just a little ditty of my very own!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my imagination (and the characters I made up.) Joss Whedon, WB, Mutant Enemy and/or a bunch of other people own everything else in the Buffyverse...
Buffy/Giles
Rated: PG-13ish


He could hear his Slayer's annoyed voice as she approached his apartment. He put his teapot down without turning on the stove, waiting for what came next. Her normal entrance of late consisted of a partially opened door, followed by a tentative knock and a cautious "Giles? You home?" The former was a result of her feeling at home in his presence again, the latter due to her belated desire to 'respect his space'.

He wondered if she would ever realize, truly realize, that the only time he was truly concerned about his 'space' was when she was in it.

She was arguing with someone... Willow or Xander, most likely. Or, perhaps Dawn. Sibling rivalry still reigned in the Summers' household, despite the never-discussed knowledge of the child's unnatural origins.

As the doorknob clicked the latch back, the expected sound of tapping knuckles sounded, and before she could voice her usual query, he said evenly, "Come in, come in. No need to wonder if I'm home. The door is obviously unlocked."

Buffy's snort made him smile, even though he couldn't yet see her face. "Yeah, right, Giles. Let's see, how many times have I come over here, found the door unlocked, waltzed in and been embarrassed out of ten years' growth?"

He appeared in the kitchen doorway as she came down the short hall. "Let's see... once?"

She blew a quick raspberry his way, then made her way to the couch. Once she was settled, she called over her shoulder towards the still-open door, "Are you coming in, or are you gonna stand out there until a vampire shows up?"

Willow's taut voice answered, "I might just wait for a vampire, since you're being so stubborn."

Giles took his customary place beside Buffy, the worn green cushions giving as he turned to face his Slayer. He took in her thin-lipped expression, and deduced that the two friends were quarrelling. "Buffy? Something wrong? Shall I make tea?"

She giggled softly despite her ire. "I don't think this'll take that long. Willow's just being her usual bossy self."

He raised an eyebrow at that. "Willow? Bossy?"

Buffy fixed him with an unbelieving stare. "I guess you've forgotten the whole 'Indigenous People Rule' conversation from last Thanksgiving, right? The one where she called you 'Unfeeling Guy?' That comes close to how she is right now."

He acknowledged the memory with a nod. "I see what you mean."

"I know you're talking about me, but I don't care!" Willow declared, still outside somewhere.

Giles shook his head wearily, rising to his feet and heading for the door. He peered around the jamb, looking for Willow. She was perched on the edge of the patio wall, arms folded tightly across her chest.

"Willow? Would you please come inside? I promise to make Buffy behave."

His winsome tone made her smile. She almost forgot to be angry, but then stiffened and huffed, "She started it."

"All the more reason for the more mature party to end it."

She looked up at him, still pouting. "You make a good point, there, Giles."

He held out a hand, offering her an escort into the apartment. "Thank you. Besides, it's too near Christmas... um, and Hanukah, to be angry with your best friend."

She stepped into him, allowing for a brief embrace, and took his arm comfortably. "Another good point. Okay, enough gentle persuasion, Mister Smooth Talker. I'm coming in."

He favored her with a pleased smile, and they left the courtyard arm in arm.

Buffy looked up as they entered, her face furrowed with sorrow. "I'm sorry, Will. I didn't mean to take my bad mood out on you."

Willow forgave her immediately and rounded the couch to give her a firm hug. "I'm sorry I was so 'grrr' about it. It's just that it's my first time to organize a big Do like this..."

Buffy held up a hand. "I know. I should be more supportive, too. I just don't wanna go by myself."

"Buffy, we'll all be there! You won't have to be by yourself! We can all sit together, and take turns dancing, and everything! It'll be fun!"

Buffy sighed. "It'll be hell. You're all coupled off, and I'm the fifth wheel."

Giles decided to find out what 'it' was. He crossed to his rarely used recliner and sat on the edge facing them. "Now this event Buffy is trying to avoid...?"

Willow finished his sentence. "...is my very first, very important Winter Formal and Mixer."

"Yours?"

"Well, I'm organizing. And decorating. And sort of emceeing."

"Ah." He looked at Buffy. "And you don't want to go? Not even to see Willow organize, decorate, and, um, emcee?"

Willow giggled appreciatively, and Buffy gave him a plaintive look.

He held up his hands and sat back. "All right! I shall say no more. Willow, I'm sure it will be pure enchantment. I only wish I could be there to see it."

Buffy's eyes narrowed as she glared daggers at him. "Oh, you are so low," she growled under her breath.

He smiled placidly.

The two girls stared at him, Willow hopeful, Buffy resentful. Suddenly, a smile spread over Willow's face, causing the other two occupants of the room to feel suddenly chilled. That smile meant only one thing; Willow had an idea. This was dangerous.

"Hey, I just thought of something!" she said brightly.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Everybody duck! Incoming..."

Willow ignored her. "Y'know, this is a big ol' date night thing. I mean, everybody will be bringing their Significant Others to show them off, and dance, and eat and stuff. It's supposed to be a mixer, but nobody ever shows up alone, because, well, all the singles are like Buffy too proud."

"I am not proud!" The Slayer retorted indignantly.

'Yes, you are. And, that's okay, because I would be, too. So what a lot of them do, or so I'm told by the Faculty Advisor, who's supposed to know about all these things, is to bring a Not-so-significant Other instead, and then if they meet someone interesting during the course of the party, there aren't hurting any feelings."

Buffy actually contemplated the idea for a minute. It sounded plausible without actually being pathetic. The idea of going somewhere without Riley, especially somewhere that Riley was likely to be with a new S.O. on HIS arm, was daunting, to say the least. She wouldn't mind so much if she had a Not-so-significant Person to go with her...

"Maybe," she conceded, still not completely convinced.

"You'd have a great time," Willow wheedled. "The band is awesome. They're from LA, so there's no ex's or werewolves among them... as far as I know, anyway. The food is NOT catered by the lunchroom, so it'll be edible, and I have this neat idea about using tinsel, since it's not supposed to be a Christmas thing, specifically..."

Buffy held up her hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. You win. If I can find a N.S.O. in time, I'm there."

Willow's happy shriek was muffled in Buffy's blonde curls. She released her friend just short of strangling her, then hopped up with typical enthusiasm. "Now I really gotta get started on the decorations! I want everything to be perfect... which is probably impossible, but I can try... thanks, Buffy, I really want you there. It just wouldn't be the same."

"I know. It's okay. Remember, I have to find someone before Friday night."

"I'll help! I bet Josh Taylor would... he never goes anywhere..."

Buffy started shaking her head quickly. "No, Will, no helping, you gotta promise... I am not going to spend three hours with someone who stares at me and runs away when I say 'hi'."

"He only did that the one time, when you first met. He's really okay..."

"Willow, the last time was Monday, when I asked him if he took notes during the film on 'America's Political System'. He squeaked like a mouse!" Buffy stood and took the other girl by the shoulders gently. "You have to promise me, no matchmaking."

Willow pouted.

"Promise me, " Buffy said warningly. "Promise, or the deal's off."

The redhead's shoulders slumped. "Okay, I promise. No aiming strange guys at you. But you have to promise to make a real effort to find someone. No fudging."

Buffy crossed her heart and held up two fingers. "Slayer's honor. No fudge anywhere."

Willow relaxed slightly. "Okay. Well, I gotta go. I'll see you after patrol, okay? I'm gonna be in the student lounge most of the night."

"Okay, bye."

Willow danced happily away, slamming the door firmly behind her as she left. Giles stood behind Buffy quietly as she contemplated what she'd just promised. "Giles?"

"Yes?"

"I'm in big trouble, aren't I?"

"It certainly looks like it."

She turned to him, a desperate look on her face. "What am I doing? I don't want to go find some stranger and ask them to a formal dinner and dance."

"Can't you ask someone who's not a complete stranger? Aren't there boys going there from high school that you wouldn't mind asking?" In his mind, he couldn't comprehend anyone turning down the beautiful girl before him.

"Get real, Giles. Most of the smart guys left Sunnydale on the first bus out the next morning after graduation. The not-so-smart ones still managed to get out of town within a few months. I think there may be... oh, three of four guys left out of my senior class, including Jonathan... and I'm not asking him, before you even say anything."

Giles closed his mouth on whatever he was going to say. He started to open it again, paused to see if she was going to add anything else, then commented, "I'm sure you'll think of something."

"Yeah, right. Well, I'm going on patrol. I'll be back for more Slayer History lessons later, okay?"

He smiled proudly and nodded, putting his hand on her arm briefly to let her know he approved.

"Okay, later!" She bounced out the door, waving as she went.

Once again, the door closed him in, alone. He sighed. It was going to be another quiet night.

He returned to the couch and picked up the book he was reading before his young friends came in. He was soon engrossed in the pages, so much so that he didn't see the face that peered in the little window by the front door.

Buffy watched him read, something stirring inside her. He looked so...

Alone.

Much like Willow's had earlier, Buffy's face lit up with a sudden thought. She turned and started down the steps, smiling. She had a surprise for him.

********

The next day, Buffy quickly enlisted Willow in her little scheme, knowing she'd need assistance to convince her reticent Watcher of the validity of her idea. She arranged for everyone to be at the Magic Box the next evening, ostensibly to discuss their party attire, and carefully crafted her comments in her mind before heading over to join them.

He had to do it. She didn't really want to go with anyone else. It was the least complicated, most satisfactory solution she could come up with.

Major plus, of course... he looked good in a tux.

The entry bell caused him to look up expectantly as she came in. He was unpacking some small items on the counter, and he gave her a quick smile. "Hello, Buffy. How was your day?"

"Fine. Bordering on great, with a side of non-failed History test to boot."

"Oh? Good, then. I'm glad you did well."

Xander, from his chair at the Tarot table, waved her over, relishing his part in the little play they'd concocted. "Hey, Buffster, you got a date yet? We could always hold a raffle. 'Win a date with Buffy! A dollar a chance!' Might make a few extra bucks, too."

"Very funny, very amusing. I'm ignoring you now." She pulled up a spare chair and wedged herself between him and Tara. "What are you guys wearing? Not you, Xander. I know that already... a tux and a goofy grin."

He gave her a smirk as Anya piped up happily, "I purchased a very revealing gown. It shows a lot of cleavage. Xander will be impressed."

Xander gave his girlfriend a bemused smile. "I'm sure I will, hon."

Buffy chuckled. Anya wasn't in on the scheme, but she'd managed to broach the subject perfectly. "And just how did the Townie get invited to a college party, again?"

Xander leaned back and puffed out his chest. "The Dean had me build some extra shelves in his office. We started talking, and he invited me. He's recruiting for the freshman class, Year 2001. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'm not college material."

"Sure you are, Xander, if you want to be." Willow, ever the champion for her friends, patted his arm. "It doesn't mean anything if you start a year late. Lots of people do that."

"It won't matter if I start with Year Never, 'cause I'm through being Book Guy. I'm Carpenter Guy, now, and I like it. Except for when Giles needs me to be Book Guy, then I revert briefly." He waved at the man behind the counter. Giles nodded absently, his mind on his inventory.

Looking at Giles, Willow jumped at the chance to start things rolling in the right direction. "Speaking of what we're wearing to the Formal, which we were before the subject changed, actually, but, um... what'cha wearin' to the Formal, Buffy? I bet it's yummy."

"Well, it's pretty okay." She didn't want to seem too eager.

"What color?" Willow insisted, winking at Tara.

"Ice blue."

"Oooo!" Tara elbowed Willow discreetly, and whispered, "Don't overdo it!"

Willow cleared her throat. "Sorry. Um, ice blue what? Sheath? Off the shoulder? What? Spill!"

"Well," Buffy leaned forward confidentially. "It's a sheath..."

"Oooo!" Willow and Xander both squealed at that, causing both Tara and Anya to punch their lovers' arms.

Willow turned her head slightly, watching to see if Giles was listening. He was always in the background, never letting on that he was interested in their fashionable discussions, but she suspected he heard every word.

Buffy continued, "Spaghetti straps, very sleek, and a really challenging slit. I'm gonna have to walk carefully or I'll be showing way more than I mean to..."

Xander almost choked, trying to cover it with a few discreet coughs. Behind them, Willow's sharp ears detected the shop owner clearing his throat quietly. She aimed a congratulatory wink at Tara and Buffy.

Giles wondered if the thermostat needed to be reduced slightly. He ran a finger around his collar, grimacing slightly as his unruly mind imagined Buffy in form-fitting blue. Behave yourself, old man, he told himself as he continued to put the figurines in their wooden display rack, trying to ignore the titillating conversation taking place in front of him.

"Hair up or down?" Willow was relentless, Buffy thought with a grin.

"Up, don't you think? French roll, maybe."

"I like your hair up, Buff. It's the non-slaying hairdo of choice," Willow approved with a smile.

"And pearl drop earrings... I might be able to talk Mom out of her pearl choker, too, if I promise not to fight anything while I'm wearing it."

"Oooo!" Anya chimed in with enthusiasm. "I love pearls! They're so... romantic." She turned to Xander. "Buy me pearls for Friday night, Xander."

"Anya? Did you forget the magic word?"

"Vengeance?"

"Nooooo, that's not the right one." He looked slightly worried.

Anya chuckled at his expression. "Xander, that was a joke. Please?" She leaned against him and entwined her arms around one of his, looking up at him appealingly.

"I'm such a sucker for a pretty face," Xander admitted.

"Yes, you are. Let's go and buy them now."

"The stores are closed, hon."

"Oh. Tomorrow, then. I don't want to forget."

"Somehow, I don't think you will." He gave her an affectionate kiss, and she beamed up at him. "I probably can only afford one pearl, though."

"That's okay. One pearl is still romantic."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Can we get back to the party prep, before you two go all smooch-y?"

"Sure, Buff." Xander didn't seem the least bit embarrassed. He was getting used to Anya's directness. In a way, he preferred it.

"So, Will, what are you two wearing?"

The conversation shifted focus away from Buffy, and they began eagerly comparing notes about shoes, purses, and other accessories. Giles was once again able to concentrate on his work for a while. That is, until he looked up and saw Buffy standing in front of him, smiling fondly.

"Hi," she said.

"Hello... is something wrong?"

"Nope. I was just wondering something."

He took in the expectant look on her face, trying to figure her out before she spoke. She didn't give him time.

"I was wondering what you were doing on the fifteenth?"

"The fifteenth? That's Friday, yes?"

She nodded.

"Well, I suppose I'll be here until seven, as usual."

"And after that?"

"Um, training?"

She shook her head. "Nope."

He stared into her lovely blue eyes, enjoying the unobstructed view momentarily before reminding himself to behave.

She saw a flicker of affection in his face before it morphed into his usual, carefully neutral mask. She pressed her advantage quickly. "You forgot about Willow's Formal."

"Oh? Is that the fifteenth? I didn't know."

"Yes, you did. You heard."

He quirked a smile at her. "I might have heard a word or two." He tilted his head slightly and looked at her with a slight frown, as if trying to read her thoughts. "Did you find someone to accompany you?"

"Yep."

He did his best not to look disappointed. "Excellent. So, no training then, right?"

"Right."

She was still standing there, so he realized the conversation wasn't quite over. "Is there... something else?"

"Yep."

He tried not to chuckle at her monosyllabic responses. "And that is...?"

"Don'cha wanna know who's taking me?"

He stared at her blankly. "Not particularly."

"I bet you're curious. You just don't want to admit it."

He sighed. Better to give her what she wanted, and get himself off the hook. "All right, have it your way. Who is taking you to Willow's fabulous Winter Formal and Dance on the fifteenth, Buffy?"

She gave him a brilliant smile. "You."

Behind her, the gang watched the events unfold with nervous excitement. Xander leaned back and whispered, "Looks like it's going pretty well so far."

Willow nodded. "Yeah, he hasn't turned purple and expired."

Tara giggled, and Anya gave Giles a searching look. "He'd better not upset her. She's much stronger than he is."

"She would never hurt Giles, Anya. She loves him."

Xander almost choked again.

"Well, she does," Willow asserted. "And he loves her, too. You can tell."

Tara nodded. Anya finished her careful examination, and shrugged. "I think you're right. But, if they love each other, then why don't they go ahead and have sex?"

"An," Xander admonished gently. "I don't really need that mental picture right now."

Buffy stood waiting, her heart fluttering nervously as he failed to respond. What if he says no? What if he's grossed out? What if he doesn't feel 'that way' about me? Maybe I'm just dreaming...

The moments dragged on, and Giles cleared his throat and swallowed convulsively. He started to say something, but nothing came out. He tried again. Still nothing. He desperately needed a glass of water...

Suddenly, something appeared at his elbow. He looked down, confused. It was... a glass of water. He looked up with a start, and Xander grinned knowingly before returning to his seat next to Anya.

Giles realized all at once that he had been set up. The entire gang was in on the gag. He fought a shiver of disappointment. It was a joke. A jest. He was the Not-so-significant Other she and Willow had discussed. She needed a date, and he was free. She didn't really want to go with him... why would she?

He looked back up at Buffy, expecting to see a smirk on her face, a smile of gentle humor. Letting the old man down easily, before he made a fool of himself...

He eyed the glass of water, wanting to drain it dry. His fingers were closing around it when Buffy's voice stopped him.

"Giles? Please say something, okay?" Her voice had a pleading edge to it, and he looked up at her again.

No, that didn't look like her teasing face. Or her 'poor clueless Watcher' face. It wasn't even her 'I need a really big favor' face. He tried to remember when he'd last seen that particular expression.

Pleading, "Giles, budge! Nobody likes a non-budger."

Plaintively asking him, "Lie to me."

The sincerity when she stated, "I want you to be my Watcher again."

Oh, my.

She wasn't joking. She was serious.

He backtracked mentally from his earlier disillusionment. He lifted the glass, causing the liquid inside it to slosh briefly, drinking it in several huge gulps. The empty glass thudded back to the table inside his nerveless fingers, and he took a huge gulp of air.

Willow held back a squeal of happiness with both hands to her mouth. He was gonna say yes, she just knew it.

Giles searched his Slayer's face once more, just to be sure.

She was beginning to look worried and hurt. How long does it take to say 'yes?' she wondered.

The second deep breath gave him enough air to croak, "Formal, you say?"

She relaxed with a sigh and her smile widened again. "Yep. Tux. Festive vest or cummerbund, your choice, with matching tie. Can you handle that?"

He began to wonder if this was such a good idea, after all, but it was too late to back out now. "I'll manage."

"Pick me up at home, then. We'll be fashionably late."

"I take it you're wanting to make an entrance."

"Yep."

He finally smiled, and Xander exhaled loudly from across the room. Willow dropped her head onto her folded arms as though exhausted. Anya and Tara exchanged smiling shrugs.

********

The last business hours of the fifteenth seemed to drag on forever, and Giles began to despair of leaving on time. The few customers that were left seemed content to visit among themselves, rather than making their purchases and getting on with life. He'd changed before Anya left, and he felt slightly silly in his elaborate tux, standing behind the counter like the maitre d' at an overpriced French restaurant.

An elegant, gray-haired woman approached the counter, and he made sure to smile pleasantly at her, rather than snarling as his inner child wanted to do. Mrs. Ducourt was a good customer, picking up crystals and expensive figurines several times a month.

She leaned over the counter, reeking of expensive perfume, and gave him an appreciative glance. "My, you're looking dapper, Mr. Giles. Big night tonight?"

He gave her a nod. "Yes, I have a Formal." He blushed unexpectedly. "I suppose that sounds rather, um, juvenile."

The lady laughed heartily. "Not at all! I think it's charming. Your young lady is a very lucky one."

He blushed again. Mrs. Ducourt was just enough older than he to make that comment sound ambiguous. She obviously had no idea just how young the lady he was escorting was.

"I suppose I should get out of here and let you close up shop, eh?" She winked at him, noting the hopeful look in his eyes. She turned, waved to her friends and commanded in a loud, no-nonsense voice, "We're leaving, darlings. The proprietor has important plans for this evening."

Giles swallowed his embarrassment, thanked his benevolent customer, and escorted the happy group out. He locked up with barely contained excitement, rushed to check his appearance and brush his teeth thoroughly, then jumped in his new convertible to dash over to Buffy's.

He was halfway there when the wind ruffling his hair caught his attention. He groaned and almost stopped the car. What was he thinking? Buffy was putting her hair up. It would be halfway down before they arrived, if he left the top down. Besides, it might turn cold as the night wore on... even in California, winter nights could be cool.

He cursed himself roundly as he pulled into the Summers' driveway, but decided to let Buffy decide whether her hairdo was worth being another ten minutes late. He hurried up the walk, muttering to himself derisively. He rang the doorbell, speaking absently to Joyce as she let him into the front hall. He was still in a mental funk when a rustling noise caught his attention, and he looked up.

He was dimly aware that his mouth was open, so he closed it. Buffy descended gracefully in front of him, a heavenly vision in pale blue. The floor-length gown shimmered softly as she moved, and he caught more than just a glimpse of a shapely thigh as she negotiated the last few steps.

Her hair was piled high, with several cascades of curls escaping and framing her face. He noted the pearl choker, some part of his rational mind acknowledging that Buffy's mother had been somehow persuaded to part with it for the evening. It complimented Buffy's outfit perfectly.

"Hi." She stopped in front of him, waiting for him to respond. For the second time in a week, he found himself speechless.

She gave him a saucy smile and turned slowly, showing off the plunging back of the sheath dress. Her perfectly aligned spine and slender shoulders almost caused him to blush again. It was certainly more of Buffy than he was accustomed to seeing... at least, from the back.

She finished her spin, and faced him once more, waiting.

He felt certain Joyce would hit him if he asked for a glass of water...

"You look lovely," he croaked, giving her a crooked, but sincere smile.

"So do you," she quipped, reaching up to adjust his tie. She admired the brocaded tie and vest, noting the silvery blue highlights overlaid on the black material that matched her gown. "Very nice. You did good, too. We match."

"Yes, well, thank you."

"I knew you were listening to us when we were talking last week."

He gave her a sheepish grin, then suddenly remembered the small box grasped behind his back. "I... Um, here, I got you a corsage, if that's appropriate... I hope you like orchids."

It was her turn to be stunned. He was holding a plastic container that held... a single, perfectly formed, blue orchid. It was almost exactly the color of her dress; so pale it was almost silver. He gave her a hopeful look, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Oh, it's beautiful! Look, Mom... it's blue... I've never seen a blue orchid before."

Joyce examined the flower carefully, acknowledging its beauty. She watched as Giles took it from the package and carefully pinned it to Buffy's dress... thankfully, the front wasn't terribly low, and he was able to manage the job without his fingers trembling noticeably.

Buffy stepped over to the hall tree mirror, beaming with satisfaction at the effect of the exotic flower against her satiny dress. "It's perfect, Giles. Thank you."

"Only the best," he said, before he thought, and almost winced at himself. Joyce gave him a suspicious look, but rallied to take a few proud, mother-type pictures of them in their finery. They left the house in good time, and got to the car before he realized the top was still down.

"Buffy, I'm sorry, I forgot to put the top up. It will only take a few minutes..."

She put a hand on his arm, stopping him instantly. "Leave it. I'm used to the night air."

"Won't you get cold?"

She gave him a sly look. "If I do, it'll be your job to keep me warm."

He was glad it was night, then. The darkness hid his red face rather well.

********

"They should be here by now! It only takes fifteen minutes to get here! They're not coming... something happened and Giles couldn't come, and Buffy won't come without him..."

Tara handed Willow another napkin. She'd wrung the first one into tiny shreds. "They'll be here. When has Buffy ever been early for anything?"

Willow twitched and wailed, "When has Giles ever been late?"

Tara didn't know the answer to that, so she soothed, "They'll be here."

"Dinner's in five minutes!"

Tara moved Willow to a chair and made her sit. "They'll be here!"

"I hope you're right." Willow fidgeted in her seat as she craned her neck to see the front entrance.

"I am right."

Willow giggled nervously. "You sound pretty sure of yourself."

"I should. Here they come."

Willow whirled. Her friends had come up the back stairs, barely visible through the crowd. "Finally!" she exploded as they moved towards her. When she finally got a good look at them, her mouth gaped open. "Oh, wow... look at them!"

Tara was grinning widely. "They look like movie stars."

"Sure do! I can't believe it... Giles looks better now than he did at the prom... and I almost had a heart attack when I saw him at the prom..."

Tara knew better than to be jealous, but she poked Willow in the ribs anyway. "Stop trying to pick up Buffy's date, silly."

"I'm not... but you have to admit..." She stopped, unable to put her words in order, and just gestured at them expressively.

"He does look pretty good," Tara agreed.

"They look good together, that's what I mean," Willow added with a grin as her friends spotted her and made their way over.

"Hey, Will! The place is jumpin'. And it looks great... very tinsel-y." Buffy stopped in front of her friend, with Giles just behind her, looking supremely content.

"Do you like it? I wanted shiny and holiday-like, without red and green stuff, 'cause that's Christmas-y."

"You did that, for sure."

Tinsel strands in silver and gold covered every available surface. The walls were hung with large shiny skirts of the stuff, and there were tinsel-tied bundles of white flowers everywhere. The starched white tablecloths sported a centerpiece of silver and gold and white, and tinsel was woven into all of them. Long tinsel strands hung from the ceiling, some of them sporting sprigs of creamy white mistletoe berries against a green background of leaves.

"It's pretty," Buffy offered, nudging Giles for him to add his comments.

"Oh, uh. Yes, it's very festive. And... shiny." He gave her an apologetic look. He wasn't good with decorating comments. "Well done, Willow."

"Thanks, Buffy... Giles, I appreciate it. Now I have to go to the emcee thing... I'm soooo nervous!"

"I'm sure you'll be fine." Giles gave her a supportive smile, and she returned it gratefully before heading up to the podium just behind the dance floor.

Willow's voice hardly shook at all as she handled the preliminary announcements, and was charmingly gracious as the college president congratulated her and made a few opening remarks. When he was finished, Giles and Buffy quickly found their seats, and after looking at the name tags around them were surprised that Willow had seated them with complete strangers.

"Well, she did say this was a mixer," Buffy offered weakly as he contemplated spending an hour with people who had no idea who they were.

"She did. I suppose we'll just have to be on our best behavior, won't we?"

Buffy gave him a shocked look. "Giles! I thought you were always on your best behavior."

He didn't dignify that with an answer, but simply pulled out her chair. Before he could get take his own seat, the other guests began to arrive, and, of course, he remained standing until all of the ladies were comfortably seated.

The tall brunette just across from them gave Giles an appreciative glance. She prodded her date and said enviously, "I hope you were watching, Steve. That was a gentleman in action."

"Yes, dear," the tall boy next to her said jokingly, then extended a hand to Giles. "Hi, Steve Madison, and this is Zoey Ducourt."

"Rupert Giles, and Buffy Summers. Did you say Ducourt? I believe I may know one of your relatives."

Zoey rolled her eyes. "Grandmother, no doubt. She knows everyone. She's such an eccentric."

"She's delightful. I saw her this evening, as a matter of fact."

"What was she buying this time? Fur or figurines?"

Giles chuckled. "Figurines. From my shop."

Zoey's eyes instantly lit up. "You're the new magic shop guy! Grandmother gushes about you all the time."

Giles flushed slightly, and Buffy took the opportunity to embarrass him even further. "Giles has that effect on women." She batted her eyelashes at him as he reddened even more.

"Don't worry, Mister Giles, she hasn't said anything too bad... yet." Zoey obviously was cut from the same cloth as her older relative. She seemed to enjoy teasing him as much as her grandmother did.

Buffy gave a soft chuckle and caught Giles' hand under the table, squeezing it reassuringly. His look of surprise and gratitude made her smile.

********

Willow sat back, happy and relaxed for the first time since the evening began. Beside her, Tara swirled her chocolate mousse in random circles, too full to finish it. She sighed and looked up to see her girlfriend's eyes following Buffy and Giles as they danced to one of the band's more sedate numbers.

Seeing the look in Willow's eye, she said softly, "D'ya think they've figured things out, yet?"

"Looks like maybe they have." Willow nodded at the couple as they swayed gently, barely moving. They were dancing close, but not cuddly close. Buffy was laughing at something Giles said, completely unselfconscious in his arms after the first few awkward moments.

"They look good, don't they?" Willow voiced Tara's unspoken question.

"Yeah. They do. It's kinda strange, isn't it? And, totally non-Nabokov-like."

Willow nodded, smiling. "No comparison, 'cause Buffy's not twelve."

"Oh, no, I didn't mean..."

"Tara, it's me, remember? I know what you mean, even if nobody else does. They belong together, Watcher and Slayer, youth and maturity, yin and yang. It's mystical."

Tara grinned happily. "You always know what I mean."

Willow looked back at her friends. They'd moved closer, the man with head bent, eyes focused on his partner, the girl gazing into his eyes, smiling. They continued to move with the music until it ended, then they stepped slightly apart, his arm holding her to his side in a hauntingly protective gesture. Willow's eyes began to fill with bittersweet tears.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Tara nudged Willow slightly, curious about her sudden change in disposition.

"It's just so unfair. Their futures are so... so..."

"Uncertain? Clouded by destiny? Menaced by the Hanged Man?"

"All of the above."

Buffy listened as the band began another fairly upbeat tune. Their style was a little uneven, but they weren't bad. The song had a kind of swing that she liked. She turned happily to Giles and was about to suggest they try another dance when Xander pounced on them, dragging Anya along behind him.

"Hi, you crazy kids! Partying safely, I hope... Giles, no hidden hooch, right? No PGA for the punch?"

Giles stared at him, totally at sea. "What?"

Buffy patted his arm reassuringly, answering Xander's question for him. "Yes, no and no, Xander."

Anya frowned, then brightened as she put the answers with her date's questions. "Xander just asked me to dance, then he saw you over here and decided to cheer you up."

"An, we don't have to tell them everything I said..." Xander started nervously.

Buffy waved the comments away. "We're doing fine. Go. Dance. Frolic."

Anya took that as a dismissal, and marched Xander away. Buffy giggled at the expression on his face as he was robbed of the opportunity to further taunt her Watcher.

She looked up at her date, smiling as he commented, "That was mercifully brief."

"Remind me to thank Anya later... something I thought I would never do."

"Of course. Um, Buffy, what did Xander mean by PGA?"

"Pure Grain Alcohol. Rumor has it the Frat guys sometimes spike the punch with it."

Shock spread over his face. "Good Lord."

"Don't worry, Giles. Willow heard about the spiking thing, so she's been taste-testing all night. If she passes out, we'll know to stop drinking the punch. It's kind of an early warning system."

He chuckled, and then inhaled sharply as Buffy's fingers entwined with his. He turned to her with a questioning look.

"I kinda like this song. You wanna shake a leg, or you wanna go sit down like a couple of duds?"

There was no other answer to that, so he motioned with his hand and led her back to the floor. He was curious to see if Buffy could handle patterned rhythms, since he'd never seen her dance anything but free form. Her eyes met his challengingly, one sculpted eyebrow arching as he took her in his arms again.

He was delighted to find she could easily keep up with him.

"Surprise! I took dance classes in the fifth grade, Giles. I can fox trot with the best of 'em."

"I'll never underestimate your dancing ability again, I assure you."

The song drew to a close, and they parted to clap politely. The feeling of her in his arms had taken him by surprise. He wasn't supposed to react that way to her. He wasn't meant to feel a curious emptiness when she moved away.

He masked his inner turmoil by suggesting, "Shall we take a short break and congratulate Willow? I'm sure she'd appreciate it."

As he spoke, he moved her towards the seating area with a solicitous hand against her back, and she decided she liked that. She caught herself and covered her surprise by answering, "Okay, but we're gonna dance some more, right? You're a good dancer."

"Thank you. Yes, we'll have another turn or two, if you like."

"I like! Hey, Will! This is amazing... You did great!"

Willow beamed at the compliment, and Giles added, "Yes, it is. Pure enchantment, just as I predicted."

The girls giggled at that, then fell to chatting while Giles offered to go for punch. If the truth were known, he needed a moment to collect himself. Being on a date with Buffy was a bit overwhelming, at best.

He concentrated on thanking the young lady that served him as he gathered his cups of punch, turning back to the tables. He nearly collided with Xander, who was standing right behind him.

"Xander! Don't do that."

"Do what? Stand here? I was waiting for you to come down from Cloud Nine."

"I beg your pardon?"

Xander gave him a smirk and waved an admonishing finger in the older man's face. "Don't tell me you're not having fun... I know you are. Something about the company you're keeping...?"

He made the sentence sound like a question.

Giles wasn't sure if the statement required an answer, so he moved on to another subject. "How are you two doing, then? Did you enjoy your dinner companions?"

"What? Oh, you mean the idiots sitting across from us? Oh, yeah, they had fun running me down for doing 'manual labor' instead of wasting my parents' money, like they were doing. I kept wanting to give that guy a little of my old buddy bartender's Cave Beer. That would've really made it fun."

Giles nodded in sympathy. "Supercilious, were they?"

Xander pointed at him with a serious look. "Stop using all those big words, or I'll think you're being all stuck-up and snooty."

Giles couldn't help laughing, just a little bit, as Xander unwittingly defined the word he was questioning. "Me? Never." He gave Xander a friendly clap on the shoulder. "We should get back to our dates."

"Speaking of dates... how's yours going?"

"Surprisingly well. It's nice to talk of something besides ghouls and monsters, for a change."

"You two could do that without a party, you know that, right?"

Giles regarded Xander thoughtfully before replying without a trace of sarcasm. "The thought had crossed my mind."

Somehow, Xander took that as an admission of sorts. "Good for you, British Guy. You're coming around, slowly. See ya tomorrow."

"Yes, goodnight."

Giles watched him go with a fond smile, until the smile turned to a confused look. "Coming around to what?"

He rescued his punch cups and returned to the table, passing the drinks to the girls with a smile. He felt at ease with Willow, and was learning to accept Tara, though he was wary of her at first. He sensed a deep well of power behind that retiring exterior, but she'd proven herself a friend, so he kept shrugging it off.

Buffy took her cup and joked, "I thought you got Watcher-napped, for a minute, there."

"I ran into Xander... almost literally."

Buffy giggled. "Poor you." She drained her punch cup quickly and took his arm. "We're dancing now. Bye." She waggled her fingers at Willow and Tara, and then led him away.

Willow shivered with excitement. Her friends were having a good time.

********

As the last dance of the evening played, Buffy contemplated her situation from the comfort of Giles' embrace. She couldn't remember feeling more loved, not even when she and Riley were going at it hot and heavy. That was need, pure and simple, while this... this was something more, something very not simple. She wished the song would go on long enough for her to figure out just what the something was.

Giles held his Slayer close, still in some small shock over her willingness to cling to him. She'd never indicated she needed close physical contact, nor had he initiated such in their four years together. Still, holding her felt right, somehow... like a deep breath after being underwater for too long... like a drink of cold water on a hot day. As the music wove its seductive spell around them, he decided to take whatever opportunity had been offered him, and relish the moment. He was sure it was fleeting, at best.

Suddenly the lights went out, causing a murmur to rise from the gently swaying crowd. Before anyone could move, several small spotlights snapped on, focused on an old-fashioned mirror ball suspended in the center of the floor. The music kept its hypnotic tempo, and the ball began to turn, causing small spots of silvery light to dot the floor around them. The hanging strands of tinsel picked up the reflection, causing the air above their heads to twinkle like the night sky. Buffy blinked several times, slightly dizzy from the effect, but Giles smiled in recognition.

"What's with the lights? It's weird," she began, but he stopped her with a gentle squeeze.

"Not really." He began moving again, ignoring the floor in favor of watching her baffled face.

"Is this a seventies thing?" she asked, regaining her composure as she got used to the dark.

He laughed shortly and whispered, "Yes, I suppose it is." Feeling happily nostalgic, he pulled her closer.

"Cool. I like it." Her head reclaimed its place on his shoulder, and she closed her eyes with a small sigh.

As he looked around the room, strangely content, he spied something that made him smile. He carefully maneuvered a few steps to the right, resuming his almost stationary rocking motion before Buffy noticed anything was different.

The last strains of the song faded away, and Buffy pushed slightly away with a long sigh. "That was nice. But they forgot to turn up the lights." The mirror ball continued to turn in the sudden quiet.

"I think it's deliberate. Look straight up." She did, and her mouth dropped open in astonishment.

"That's mistletoe!"

"Yes, it is."

She heard soft giggles and murmured comments from all around her, and she began to smile. "Willow must've cooked this up... it's so like her."

"Yes." He waited patiently for her to make the next move, irrational hope causing his throat to constrict.

She gave him a dazzling smile, watching his face in the fragmented light. "We don't want to disappoint her, do we?"

His eyes sparkled back at her. "Never."

She tilted her head up just as he bent his down, and the resulting collision turned their world upside down and inside out.

Near the entrance, Willow paused with her hand on the light switches, stretching the moment as much as she dared. In the dark, she couldn't tell Buffy and Giles' silhouette from the other happily kissing couples on the dance floor. She finally decided it was time, and the crowd gave a collective 'awww' as the room snapped back into artificial daylight.

She spotted Xander and Anya, grinning at each other like lovesick fools, and smiled. Okay, so the idea was hokey, but she had a sneaking suspicion that Giles would like it. Finally, her gaze fell on the one couple in the crowd that was ignoring everything but each other. She gaped in shock as she watched Giles thoroughly plunder Buffy's mouth, right there in front of God and everybody!

Behind her, Tara said cheerfully, "I think he got the idea."

"Boy, did he!"

They watched their friends in stunned silence. Willow made a mental note as Giles employed a few techniques she'd never seen before. They certainly didn't show any signs of slowing down.

"I think I created a monster."

Tara giggled.

Xander rushed up to them, towing Anya behind him. "Did you see? Did you? See? That?" he hissed loudly. "They're even embarrassing me!"

"Not me," Anya said mildly.

"Me, neither," added Tara.

Willow shook her head. "Shock, yes. Disbelief, maybe a little. Embarrassment? Nope. Not even."

Xander looked from one girl to another, looking for support. He found none, so he turned to Anya and stated firmly, "We're going home. My heart can't take too many more shocks tonight."

"Oh? That's too bad." Anya gave him a sultry look, and he froze as he replayed his own words in his head. He decided that he'd said something dumb.

He gave his girlfriend a quick hug, smiling at her as she crooked a questioning eyebrow. "Um, I think I'll retract that very last statement, and stick with the going home part, okay?"

"Okay. Bye, Willow. Bye, Tara. Say 'bye' to Buffy and Giles for us, if they ever stop kissing long enough." With that, Anya took Xander's arm, and they headed out the door. Xander couldn't resist one last glance over his shoulder, shaking his head as he saw the display of lip dexterity continuing, unabated.

********

When Giles finally tore his tingling lips from Buffy's, she slowly opened her eyes and gave him a glazed look.

There was fire in his eyes, something she'd never seen before. Not when he looked at Olivia; that was something companionable and comfortable. Not when he looked at her mother the night they were both zapped by the cursed Band Candy, because that was something possessive and defiant. Not even when he looked at Jenny Calendar, that cautious, dazed look that said, 'I don't quite know what to make of her,' because that was something that never had a chance to develop before she was brutally killed by Angelus.

No, she thought to herself, not going there tonight... I'll do the guilt trip later.

She saw something wonderful in his eyes, something completely and totally for her. It warmed her and terrified her at the same time.

As they continued to stare at each other, she wondered what he saw in her eyes... besides blind panic.

********

Giles watched as the girl in front of him stood frozen, her eyes closed. For a panicked moment, he wondered if he'd misunderstood the situation and done irreparable damage to their relationship. And yet... she'd responded, hadn't she? She certainly hadn't pushed him away.

Then her eyes opened, and he was lost in their depths. Blue met green, and merged, tinting their world with an entirely new range of color. A heartfelt conversation took place in the blink of an eye without one word being said. He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly.

Buffy thought giddily, I love those crinkly eyes. He doesn't smile enough. She bit her lip to hide its trembling.

Giles thought, I do love it when she bites her lip like that. It's adorable.

He touched her face, gently, tentatively, and said the first thing that popped into his head.

"Don't be afraid, love."

She couldn't believe it. He'd practically read her mind.

She heard herself say, "I can't help it. I always screw up the things I want most."

What was that, she thought giddily, true confession time? I don't bare my soul like that to anyone...

...except Giles.

The fingertips on her cheek slid away, replaced by warm palms as he took her face in his hands. "Not this time," he vowed, and kissed her again, his pace unhurried and slow.

Slowly, they became aware of something flickering, the light/dark/light registering on their closed eyelids. They broke apart reluctantly, and realized someone was blinking the overhead lights. It reminded Giles of a 'last call' at a pub.

Willow gave them a devilish grin as they turned and started for the door, looking like scolded children.

"Sorry, Will. We got sorta carried away," Buffy apologized as soon as they were within earshot.

"Oh, that's okay, we're just cleaning up a little. I have to turn the lights off now, though, so we all can leave."

Buffy looked around, amazed that the room was practically empty. Where had everyone gone in such a hurry? It had only been a few minutes since the final dance...

Willow was barely containing her excitement, and Giles gave her his best school teacher-ish glare. "Did you plan all of this for our benefit? This entire evening smacks of a grand conspiracy."

"Well, maybe there was some slight conspiring. But it was for a good cause, because, see, you two were meant to be together, only you weren't doing the getting together part very fast, and you needed some help, and, that was me!"

"Willow, you're a Yenta." Giles voice was tinged with amusement and affection.

Willow burst into surprised laughter, and Buffy stared at him, not comprehending. "What's a Yenta?"

"A Jewish matchmaker."

Buffy giggled as she thought about it, and decided he was absolutely right.

Willow composed herself and retorted, "And don't you forget it, either, Buster. You guys gotta stick together, now, 'cause if you don't, I'll turn my Yenta powers on you again!"

He held up a hand in mock horror. "Oh, no, can't have that."

Buffy snuggled into his side, and he responded by encircling her with a warm arm. "Thanks, Will. Really."

"You're welcome," Willow said airily, a satisfied smile on her face. A thought came to her, and she whirled and grabbed something off the table. "Oh, I almost forgot. Here's your souvenir of the evening." She handed Giles a tangle of tinsel, and he held it out to Buffy for inspection.

"What is it?" he queried, as Buffy poked the mass of shiny silver thread. She finally untangled the strands and found, at the center, a sprig of plastic mistletoe. She started laughing, and Giles joined her.

Willow giggled with them and offered an explanation. "It's a kind of keepsake. A real one would dry up, so I made all the hanging bouquets out of fake mistletoe. That way, you can keep it forever, and the school can use them next year." She struck a haughty pose and added, "Dean Cauldwell said I was being 'frugal.'"

Buffy gave her best friend a quick kiss on the cheek and turned to look at Giles. "I know just where this should hang, too." Her smoldering expression made his temperature rise dramatically, and he found he had nothing intelligible to say. He simply gazed at her, enrapt.

Willow gave them both a gentle shove towards the door, stating emphatically, "I do NOT want to know. Go home, I'll see you both later."

Obediently, the couple exited, leaving a smiling redhead in their wake. "From the looks of it, it's gonna be much later."

********

The ritual of tea performed, Giles settled onto the couch beside his new, very Significant Other, and smiled as she cuddled close with a happy sigh. He was still in his tux, the tie loosened by Buffy's dexterous fingers, and he felt very much at ease. He looked down at the blond head resting on his shoulder, and wondered if it was all a dream.

Buffy fiddled with her teacup, tracing the delicate edge with her finger. Sitting next to Giles seemed a natural thing, and the fact that his warm chest made a perfect pillow for her head was only right. She listened carefully, hearing the soft thrum of his heart under her ear, and decided once and for all that live lovers were much better than dead ones.

Lover, singular, she corrected herself. This is it. I gave my soul to Angel, my body to Riley, but only Giles owns both.

She hoped one day she'd be able to articulate that sentiment in a way that Giles could fully understand it.

"Should I hang the mistletoe over the couch?" she teased, taking a slow sip of the cooling liquid in her cup.

Giles looked up, smiling as his eyes caught a glimpse of something in the soft light. "Too late." A sprig of real mistletoe was pinned to a rafter above them. "Willow's been busy, hasn't she?"

Buffy giggled against him, sending warm shivers up his spine. "She's a force of nature."

"Yes, indeed."

He was silent for several moments before Buffy said quietly, "We're breaking tradition, you know."

"Oh?" He looked up again. "Oh, so we are."

She took his cup and placed it with hers on the silver tray in front of them, carefully scooting the coffee table back with a bare foot. "It's bad luck to do that."

"And, of course, we who battle evil nightly need all the good luck we can possibly have."

"Right."

His lips closed over hers, taking gentle possession of them with her full consent. He caressed her softly, with restrained passion, and she responded with a barely audible moan. Afraid of getting carried away too soon, he finally eased her back slightly and pressed a tender kiss to her forehead.

Her eyes were shining, and he thought for a moment he saw a sparkle of tears. He stroked her golden hair and whispered, "What are you thinking in that busy mind of yours?"

"Oh," she answered dreamily, "I was thinking about tinsel."

He almost burst out laughing. Restraint kicked in, and he smiled instead. "May I ask why?"

She picked up the streamer of silver and mistletoe that Willow had given her, watching the lamplight flicker across the reflective strands. "I don't know if I can explain it."

"Buffy, you're far more articulate than you'd like me to believe." He leaned down and gave her an encouraging kiss. "Tell me. I want to hear."

"Okay." She straightened slightly, facing him, her eyes finding nothing but support in his. "I was thinking that kissing you is like tinsel. Before you give me that clueless face, hear me out."

He nodded, trying not to look clueless.

"Um... when you kissed me, before, the first time... it was like the end of the last song. See, it was dark, at first, and then they turned on the mirror ball, and all of a sudden there were hundreds of little sparkles of light. It kinda made me dizzy for a minute, but then it was like, 'Wow! This is cool!' And then, after I had a chance to enjoy the sparkles for a minute, the real lights came on, and there the tinsel was, all shiny."

She traced his jaw with a gentle finger. "That's how it was when we kissed. Same stages: total dark, sparkles, dizziness, wow, shiny-ness."

He considered her statements with some surprise. "That's lovely. And, quite a compliment, to think I produced 'sparkles'." Her hesitant words touched something deep within him, and his voice roughened with emotion as he admitted, "I think it effected me in much the same way." He found himself hoping against hope that she was sure of how she felt about him, because he was certainly sure about his feelings for her.

"I kinda thought it was a one time effect, except when you kissed me just now, it happened again. I guess that means something, doesn't it?"

"I suppose it does."

"I wonder if that's gonna keep happening?" she said, with a faraway smile.

"Only one way to find out."

She seemed to agree, for she pulled him back into another ardent embrace, her lips dancing over his delicately before settling down to the business of marking the inside of his mouth as her own personal territory.

The arm that had been resting along the back of the sofa slid down and around Buffy's waist. It pulled her closer of its own volition, and Giles noted the action somewhere in the back of his mind. He knew that if his extremities started deciding to exercise their own free will without consulting his brain, he was going to be in a lot of trouble soon.

Sure enough, a sudden shift of his hips and a tightening of both arms brought Buffy around to sit in his lap. He left the heat of her lips to explore the warm column of her neck, and she moaned softly as her head lolled to one side, giving him full access to that tender skin. Unexpectedly, a low growl forced itself up from his belly, and he froze, aware that an invisible line was about to be crossed.

Giles, old man, he told himself, you'd best get a grip on yourself... one that's considerably more decorous than the one you have on Buffy at the moment...

"Ahh... um, Buffy, I think we need a moment's pause before I... um... we, oh dear, I need to catch my breath."

She began to giggle, burying her head against his shoulder, and he soon joined her.

"You're so romantic, Mister Giles," she teased.

"I'm sorry, that was rather disjointed."

"So, I make you disjointed? I kinda like that."

"So do I, but it's late, and I must take you home. Your mother is probably waiting up."

"Probably." Buffy sighed and nuzzled into his neck. "But I don't want to go home."

Unexpected tears sprang to his eyes. She wants me!

"Love, we have time. Your mother and your sister need you."

"You need me," she said hesitantly. "Don't you?"

"Oh, yes, I do." He hugged her tightly and buried his face into her fragrant hair. "But I can be patient."

"Not sure I can," she mumbled into his lapel, giggling. After a minute, she grew quiet and lay against him, feeling more content and secure than she had in a very long time. She toyed with a satiny lapel for a few seconds, and then said in a small voice, "You called me 'love', didn't you?"

He hadn't realized it, but the word had slipped past his lips without a second thought. "Yes, I did." He tried not to tense up as he became conscious of how very forward that must seem to her. He forced himself to wait for her response.

She didn't move, just stayed in his embrace. "Did you mean it like, for real?"

She wasn't giving him any clues as to how she wanted him to mean it. Time to dive into the deep end, old man, he told himself. Tell her.

"I did."

She sat up and stared into his eyes. "You did?"

He nodded. "I did. I do. Love you, that is."

Delicate fingers touched his face, and her mouth stretched into a sly smile. "Good. 'Cause it's no fun being in love with someone that isn't in love with you."

"Does that mean what I think it means?"

"It does."

"It does?" he echoed helplessly, his heart pounding.

"It does. I does... I mean, I do. Love you, that is. Somehow, that sentence had more punch when you said it."

He couldn't resist hugging her again. "Oh, Buffy, that's wonderful!"

"Umm hmm. Do I still have to go home?"

He was too busy kissing her to respond right away, and when he finally did, his voice was touched with regret. "For now, love."

"Okay." Sighing heavily, she slid from his lap to her feet and hauled him up beside her. "Walk me to the door, Tuxedo Guy?"

"Of course." He gave her his arm and escorted her to the entry, his eyes never leaving hers. At the door, he paused, pulling her in for a brief, scorching kiss that left her breathless.

She gasped, "Another one like that, and I'm not going anywhere."

He pointed upwards. Another sprig of mistletoe hung innocently from a pushpin just inside the entry.

Buffy giggled, then shook her head. Willow had been very thorough. She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, softening the embrace into something slow, warm, and drowsily sensual.

When she released him, it was his turn to gasp.

"Tinsel?" She asked with a grin.

"Yes, definitely tinsel."

 
The End