**Part Four**

Buffy reclined against Giles on his couch as Dawn busily looked through her gifts. Since everyone, including Buffy and Giles, had been scattered around the globe at Christmas they agreed to converge at Giles' house for a belated Christmas party.

The tree was fake, but it didn't lessen the jovial mood felt by all. Giles had managed to start a roaring fire, which was still providing an extra bit of warmth to the living room. He slid a hand along Buffy's arm before grabbing his teacup for a sip.

He could get used to this. While in Sunnydale there was always an air of them versus him. Tonight, the air was crackling with not just the spirit of Christmas but family. Aside from Willow, neither he nor Buffy had gone to any great effort to announce the change in their relationship. Not only did no one seem to mind, but they treated their cuddling as if it had been an expectation.

It was the first time in recent memory that he could remember having someone to share his time with while most of the rest of them did not. The only exception being Robin and Faith. He was usually the single one. He smiled at the feelings the welcome change awoke in him and kissed the back of Buffy's head.

"What was that for?"

"Just thinking what a nice holiday this has turned out being after all."

"It has, hasn't it?"

"Yes, though I think we spoiled Dawn entirely too much. The look on her face says we exceeded her expectations."

"Exceeding her expectations isn't a bad thing."

"Not at all," he whispered.

"What are you two all conspiratorial about?" Willow joined them on the couch with her own cup of tea.

Giles noticed she had placed the cauldron charm on her necklace. He smiled, remembering the care Buffy had taken in picking out Willow's gifts. Anyone who claimed Buffy lacked a heart or was unfeeling clearly had never observed her in such a circumstance. To those she loved there was no question the devotion she felt for them. No one in this room would question whether Buffy would die for them.

Thankfully, Giles no longer had to worry about his slayer dying in the line of duty. Barring an apocalypse of great magnitude, she was here in London training and teaching. As was Faith.

"Yo, B, there are a couple here you haven't opened yet." Speaking of Faith.

"I was told I couldn't until next week. My birthday." He didn't need to be facing her to see the pout.

"Oh, man, doesn't that just suck."

"Yes, because the obscene amount of wrapping paper strewn all over my floor would indicate there was a lack of gifts exchanged."

"Touchy there, Giles. How does she rate anyway? Birthday and Christmas presents?"

He smiled at the dark haired slayer. It was difficult to believe she had once been rogue. Under that tough, tiger-like exterior lurked the heart of a domestic cat. She was still no one he would want to encounter in a darkened alley, but the violent nature that lurked just beneath the surface when she'd first come to Sunnydale years ago was no longer present. She would always be rough around the edges. Street smart with the speech to indicate she'd grown up hard and fast.

Her eyes had lit up at the sight of not just the tree and the presents beneath it as if it was something she'd never seen before. But, also, at the happiness on the faces of everyone when she and Robin had entered the room. It was something she was still getting used to, being a part of a unit. A family.

Who would have thought a former slayer's son would be the one to soften her? One might say tame, but Giles wasn't sure anyone would ever truly tame Faith Lehane. The two were compatible and happy. Happiness wasn't something Faith had been on the receiving or giving end of very often and it suited her well.

Xander and Dawn were looking at one of the comic books Xander had gotten. Giles couldn't help but notice the look in Dawn's eyes when she looked at Xander. He wondered if Xander noticed. Perhaps he was not ready to. Dawn was no longer a girl. Giles knew it was difficult for most of them to stop seeing her as Buffy's younger sister who needed their protection. She was a capable researcher and had taken to walking in Giles' watcher footsteps quite well. She and Robin both had the heady task of overseeing all of the slayers until more watchers could be trained.

Xander was the only one among them who had obtained work outside of the slaying field. Giles pulled some strings and Xander was working in an office. He had been hired at an entry-level position, but was proving himself capable despite his handicap. Giles was proud of Xander and thought if anyone had taken the opportunity to get away from Sunnydale and run with it, it was Xander. The company offered education reimbursement, which Giles hoped Xander would take advantage of one day.

And then there was Andrew. He didn't really fit in with the group, but he had somehow managed to become a part of it. He wasn't the weakling so many thought he was. Easily influenced, yes. Giles had to work on keeping the young man focused, otherwise work would never get done. But with a tight leash, and more than a fair amount of patience, Andrew was turning into a fairly decent researcher.

"Well, it's my house."

"So it is, big guy. More than one, too, that must mean he's pretty serious about you, B."

"Faith," Robin reprimanded.

Giles could tell it was difficult for him to be too upset with her. He had to bare in mind she came from a life where more than one present was more than likely a big deal.

She held up her hands as if surrendering. "All right, all right, none of my business. I get it. I was just saying. I mean, we're walking around like on eggshells or something not saying anything about them. I guess you all are just used to accepting anything that comes your way without commenting, but I'm not. I have to say something. I think it's cool, okay?"

"Thank you, Faith," Giles said simply. "I think it's pretty cool, too, if I may say so."

"See," Faith said, smiling as if Giles had just bestowed the best compliment in the world on her.

"I'd better get her home before she starts going all sentimental on us. She'd shoot me tomorrow if I allow it to happen."

"We'll see you out."

"No, you're comfortable. We know where our coats are and everything. Thanks for everything, Rupert."

"We're glad you could come and were willing to put off Christmas for a couple of weeks for our benefit."

"No problem."

"See ya everyone."

"Good night," the remainder of them said almost in unison.

"You're not upset I'm making you wait until your actual birthday to open your presents, are you?"

"No, I can wait. It wasn't very nice of you to put them out here, though. That's like teasing to an extreme."


"Well, nothing, they're with the Christmas tree and the other presents. Wil, back me up here."

"She's right."

"I apologize for teasing you, Buffy."

She turned in his arms to face him. "I'm already thinking of ways for you to make it up to me."

His eyes widened, surprised she'd said that in front of the others. While they hadn't hidden anything, flaunting where their relationship had gone hadn't been done to this point.

"Yes, well, I will do my best."

"You always do." She kissed him and stood from the couch.

"Where are you going?"

"I was going to get you some more tea. You're empty."

"Thank you." He was still getting used to having someone to look after him and notice details like that.

"I'll add it to your tab."

"Mm, it's getting rather long, isn't it? Perhaps I should cash it in."


"You guys, quit with the innuendos."

Giles smiled wryly at Xander's interruption as Buffy took the cup and saucer to the kitchen. He didn't miss the smile on her face before she'd turned from him, though. He didn't miss Dawn's delighted squeal either when she caught him watching Buffy's exit from the room. She was compelling to watch and very easy on the eyes.

"I think that's our queue, guys."

"Oh man. The night's still young."

"Well, we can continue this party at our apartment, the three of us. Buffy and Giles need some alone time."

"Alone time. They're not alone, they're together. All the time."


"I know, I know. I'm getting my stuff together. Am I spending the night?"


"You can probably have Buffy's bed. Right, Giles?"

"You'd have to ask her, Dawn."

"I just meant, she's probably not coming home tonight."

"You're right, I probably won't be. Why?"

"Xander wants to spend the night. I told him he could probably have your bed."

"Sure. Have at it. I'll just push you to the side if I come home."

"Buffy," Xander said, with a positively stricken look on his face.

"What? What did I say?"

"You can't sleep with me."





"He'll what? Get jealous? Giles?"

"Hmm. I'm sorry to say, Xander, but it would not bother me."

"Well, that's just great."

Giles stood from the couch as Buffy set his fresh cup of tea down. "Thank you, dear."

"You're welcome," she said and kissed him.

Together they walked Xander, Dawn, Willow, and Andrew to the door. Giles kept his arm around Buffy who had a particular glow about her tonight. They hadn't been together as a group like that for some time. Everyone was busy doing their own thing, including them now. They returned to the living room and began to clean up after the present unwrapping. It was such a couple thing to do, Giles basked in it.

"Did you have a nice night?"

"I think everyone did."

He wasn't sure where the time had gone. They had gathered at his house late in the afternoon and it was now after midnight. It didn't seem like hours had passed. It was amazing to be able to spend uninterrupted blocks of time with the people most important to him.

Once the living room was picked up, they moved to the kitchen and tackled the mess that was there. Feeding that many made for dishes, even if he hadn't prepared the meal himself. Luckily, he had a dishwasher and all but a few things went into it.

He took Buffy into his arms once things were to his satisfaction and leaned against the counter. He found her mouth, still a little baffled he really had her. He would never tire of her or grow complacent. He had lived alone far too long, knew what his alternatives were for him to allow that to happen. He hadn't waited this long to think of settling down only to ruin it.

She looked at him with such adoration in her eyes when they parted. It was both arousing and humbling. One look from her could bring him to his knees. He cupped her face with his hands, needing to really look at her for a moment.

"God, I love you."

She blinked and he thought for a moment he had erred. Was it too soon? Should he have held back? He didn't think so. He would not have lies or mistruths between them.

"You do?"

"You've lassoed my heart, Miss Summers."

She placed her hand over his chest and smiled. "Well, then I guess I'd better treat it with the tender love and care it deserves."

"I'd say so. It's delicate."

"That's a calling I will gladly answer." She hugged him, a little too tightly. "I love you, too, Giles," she whispered. It was so soft he almost thought he'd imagined it. "Who'd have thought?"


"I'm not sure how you can top this."

"What do you mean?"

"My birthday. I almost think you're more excited about it than I am."

"I am excited at the prospect of giving you a truly happy one."

"Oh, well, in that case. Count me in on the plan."

"I thought you might agree to it."

"So, was Santa good to you?"

"Yes, quite. He gave me everything I wished for and then some."

"Me, too."

"I do have one wish left, though."

"Hmm, did Santa forget something?"

"No, it's about that tab I have to pay off."

"Oh, that." He enjoyed the spark of desire that flashed in her eyes. It aroused him to no end knowing that mere words could put her in the mood.

"Is it quite extensive?"

"You bet."

"Well, we'd best get working on that then. I don't like being in anyone's debt." Her hand was already reaching for his as they left the kitchen for his bedroom. He liked to think of it as their bedroom, and hoped it would be that officially soon. Xander could take over Buffy's place at the flat she currently resided with Willow and Dawn.

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