The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 2:29 am 
Title: The Holiday Fic 2002
Authors: Katharyn and Forrister.
Disclaimer: Neither Katharyn or myself own these characters. Joss does. (Some people don’t appreciate things they own.)
Rating: R WARNING – Parts of this fic contains smut. Yes, real smut. (I’m not responsible – that’s my co-author’s department.) I’ve been told that R is an appropriate rating for the fic as a whole.
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of Season 5. Season 6 does not exist. (I’m still doing the whole refusal to live in Joss’s reality thing.) I guess you’d call this a post S5 alternate universe. I call it a much nicer place to be.
Summary: It’s the holiday season again. Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas is fast approaching. Plans need to be made, and holiday hi-jinks ensue.
Notes: Some things you will need to know – so you don’t get confuzzled. Buffy is alive – she came back. (Not like she did in S6 – If you want to know how and why read some of my other stories. Willow and Tara are living with Dawn and Buffy. Buffy has a part time job. Xander and Anya are still together. This is set in the first Christmas after Joyce’s death, and it’s the Christmas after the last Christmas Fic we did, last year. (All these things are in the archives I believe.)

Forrister’s Thanks: Of course I want to thank Katharyn. She is the driving force behind this story. Many of the ideas are hers, and most of the writing too (its impossible to keep up with her – a writing dynamo). Thanks to Xita and the moderators for the Kitten and Pens Boards, they built a wonderful place for us to play. Thanks to all the Kittens for their continuing support for each other, through hard times, good times and fun times. This is our Christmas present for you all.

Katharyn’s Thanks: KR wishes to thank: Kerry for letting me play in and obliterate large swathes of her story, Louise for being there, Xita for assorted suggestions that will become clear as the parts go on, all those who encouraged me and helped with me writing in the past - including all the readers. Finally all the kittens. Its been a rough year but now it is nearly over. *HUGS* to you all .

Ok folks – here is the first part. The plan is to post one part a day until Christmas (or perhaps a little after if things get busy.) Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Please give lots of feedback – Katharyn lives on it.

Chapter 1

Tara put the folded clothes away in the dresser.

“I can’t believe that it’s nearly Christmas again.” Willow sighed as she finished hanging the skirts in the wardrobe. Last Christmas had been fun, but in recollection was bitter-sweet. It was now a real ‘last’ Christmas… For Joyce.

Happy thoughts though.

Tara smiled. “Christmas has a tendency to come after Thanksgiving, love.”

“I know that.” Willow turned and favoured her baby with a look. “I mean the year seems to have flown by.”

The smile on Tara’s face faded a little. “So much has happened.”

Willow sat on the end of the bed, folding clothes as she continued. “This time last year we were all full of plans and things.”

Tara sat beside her. “I know – I think last Christmas was the most planned event in human history.” To the point where everyone had sort of rebelled… to some extent.

“But we did have a great time,” Willow protested. She’d been the chief planner – making all sorts of charts and schedules and organizing things. While she knew she’d gone a little overboard, the results were good, and that’s what counted . . . wasn’t it?

“True. Everyone was so happy.”

“Then why aren’t we so excited this year?” Willow reached down for another pair of socks to roll.

Tara thought about it as she watched Willow roll the socks and tuck the ends in. “I’m not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with Joyce. It’s not even been a year yet. It’s… another milestone. The first Christmas for Buffy and Dawn without her.”

Willow’s face reflected the grief she still felt when she remembered Joyce. “I know, we all miss her so much. We don’t talk about it much, but the pain is there.”

Tara put an arm around her, comforting her. “These things seem worse during the holidays, hun. I miss my Mom too… in the holidays. Its just the way people are. Things remind us, stir memories.”

“Dawn seems to be fine.” Willow replied after pulling back a tear or two.

Tara shook her head. “Haven’t you noticed, how she was always so keen on the holidays? Yet this year she hasn’t been getting into them. She was positively subdued the other day.” Maybe that was… well maybe it was more to do with Buffy.

They’d celebrated Thanksgiving two days ago at Giles’ house. Tara and Willow had done most of the cooking while Dawn helped with various kitchen chores, mainly at Buffy’s insistence to keep her busy. But Buffy had been concentrating on training and had only surfaced when Giles fetched her bodily out of the training room for dinner. She had been, very deliberately, somewhere that was… well else.

Willow considered this briefly. “Buffy seemed preoccupied too.”

“I know,” Tara said. She hadn’t been about to mention it… in case it was just her. But Willow knew Buffy so well and if she’d noticed it too. “She’s been throwing herself into study, slaying and training. Buffy has gone all physical fitness girl lately.” This niggling worry had been rolling around in her mind since the holiday season started and she wondered what they could do to help. Or rather what Buffy would let them do to help. Buffy was trying to be big sister and mom to Dawn, both at the same time. Dawn had taken it well, mostly, but Buffy seemed to be withdrawing more and more into herself and her duties. She was far too serious of late. Tara knew what she was going through, having gone through something similar herself.

When being a member of a family was a ‘duty’, as it seemed to be to Buffy, things weren’t quite right.

Willow nodded. “Now that you point it out, you’re right. Last week she decided to start riding a bike everywhere.” Willow gave a brief grin at the thought of Buffy, riding like a maniac through traffic. “She’s still looking for a cheap bike though.”

Both women sat on the bed, folding clothes into their laps and thinking. They put the remaining items away in thoughtful silence, broken only when Willow finally asked, “So what do we do for Christmas? I know it’s a bit late,” she saw Tara’s wry smile, “Okay ‘late’ by my standards, but we should try to plan something.”

“Well. I don’t think having it here would be a good idea.” Tara replied as she replaced the laundry basket in the corner. “Too many memories. And not just for Buffy and Dawn – we couldn’t be happy either, worried about how they were feeling. And that’s not fair on anyone. It’ll make them feel guilty for bringing us down. It’d just get worse and worse.”

Willow silently agreed. She still had memories of Joyce, busy in the kitchen and fending off interlopers with a wooden spoon. They were less painful than they were just after . . . but they still knotted her up inside. “We could have it at Giles’,” she suggested, with some doubt in her voice. Thanksgiving had been, well, not exactly a disaster, but less than total a success. Planning had been seriously neglected. This time if she was in charge of the shopping, rather than Anya?

Tara had already thought of that and said it straight out. “Not after the other day. I think he found that a bit of a strain. He loves us all, but he has his own little space and he likes to keep us out of it if he can. Christmas would be worse.” She got up, pulled the ironing board out of the closet, and switched on the iron to heat up.

“There’s Anya and Xander’s place.” Willow put in, her mind running down a mental list of available venues. To her surprise the mere suggestion sent Tara into a miniature giggle fit.

“Sweetie, just think about that for a minute.” Tara said, once she could speak again. “Anya would decorate until the place was a fire trap. You know, you remember, how she was last year. And there is no way we could stop her from cooking.”

Willow shuddered. Anya’s cooking wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Everything she knew about it she learned before any of them, or their distant ancestors, were born. Modern cookery seemed totally beyond her and she wasn’t interested in learning either. “Ewwww. Remember her pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving?” She picked up the bundle of socks and put them in the appropriate draw, grouping them by colour and thickness.

Tara grimaced. “How could I forget?” It had been an experience.

Willow picked up the one odd sock that was somehow left over and added it to the collection of single socks in the bottom draw waiting for her mass reorganization. “Buffy turned it down – come to think of it she didn’t eat much at all,” Willow mused. Even back then she’d been beginning to think that there was more to Buffy’s weird behavior lately than the normal Slayer-stuff would account for. Now, talking with Tara, they might have had it pegged.

Tara checked the iron and decided it was hot enough. “I still can’t figure how you managed to hide our pieces, and Dawn’s, in a napkin, for disposal later, without Anya noticing.” Tara recalled with amusement, being somewhat surprised at how sneaky her baby could be under pressure.

Willow smiled at the memory. “Years of getting rid of broccoli during childhood,” she boasted. I think Giles tossed his when he went into the kitchen for some sauce. He certainly didn’t have as much when he came out – just the token gesture that he was ‘too full for anymore.’”

“I never noticed that,” Tara said as she picked up the iron and began with their blouses.

Willow vaguely recalled something about it being her turn to do the ironing, but since Tara seemed to be doing it, who was she to butt in with something she didn’t really like? “You were busy helping Anya get Xander to the bathroom. Remember?”

Tara carefully pressed the collar of the blouse she was ironing, Willow was something of stickler when someone else was responsible for doing it. “Oh yeah, I think he was the only one who actually ate a whole piece.”

Willow sat back down on the bed. “He didn’t have a choice, Anya was watching him like a hawk. He was sick all that afternoon.”

“Poor Xander,” commented Tara. “Anya thought it was brought on by overeating.”

Willow nodded. “Yeah, eating more than half a mouthful of her cooking. I wonder how he’s feeling today?” Yesterday hadn’t been much better. It was amazing just how sick he could have been from one piece of pie.

Tara turned the blouse over to get a better angle on the sleeves. “How do they manage things at home?”

Willow had often wondered the same thing, but her knowledge of her old friend gave her something of an answer. “I think Xander does most of the cooking. He’s used to fending for himself.” Even if that involved frozen pizza most of the time.

“I suppose he is. Good thing too.” Tara hung the finished blouse on a coat hanger and picked up another item of clothing. She turned her attention back to the topic at hand. “So, Anya’s cooking aside, that still leaves us with nowhere to have Christmas sweetie.”

Willow’s eyes lit up with that little inner light bulb that shone when she had a particularly clever idea. Or some spectacularly bad ones… they were always worth hearing. “We could have it at my parent’s house. They’re out of town until New Year, and they did say that I could stay there if I needed.”

Tara shook her head. “Hun, they said that in the summer holidays.” She ironed carefully round the buttons. “I don’t think that Christmas was mentioned in the arrangement and nothing was said about having a party.”

Willow conceded the point. “Well, I still have the key,” she added, trying to overlook the minor, but very valid objections.

“Hmmm. I suppose, if that’s the best place we can come up with.” Tara got on with the ironing while Willow took Dawn and Buffy’s clothes to their rooms. Both of them were thinking about the same thing. What were they going to do about the holidays?


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


“Anya. . . . . ANYA!!”

Giles was looking at a completely empty jar. A jar that should have been at least half full if someone was staying on top of the stock and re-orders.

“Yes?” Anya replied from out back.

“Is there any more of that powdered myrrh out there?”

Anya’s voice wafted back. “No, but I ordered some in last week, it should be here next week or the week after.”

Giles frowned. “We’ve run out - already.” He didn’t want to think about having to apologize to Mrs Dreary about that when she came for her regular supply. She was very particular about it and a valued customer.

“Well,” Anya began.

Giles heard the sound of the storage room door open. Somehow he appreciated the peace whilst she was in there.

“We have three pounds of the stuff in block form on the bottom shelf.” She yelled from somewhere.

Peace that had been quite volubly shattered. Giles had no idea why they’d ordered that much in block form. Nobody bought myrrh by the pound anymore, mugwort maybe, but never myrrh. And Anya was so keen on being modern.

She arrived back in the room with a blow up Santa in one hand and a plastic wreath of holly and mistletoe in the other. The way she was looking at them and weighing them up… and looking at different spots around the room suggested…

“Oh no, we’re not going through that again!” Giles felt the little vein in his temple begin to pulse; a headache was bound to follow on from that. “We decided that there would be no repetition of last year and the… um… over-enthusiasm which occurred around the holidays.”

Last year Anya had turned the Magic Box into a passable imitation of Christmas World with a few Yule and Hanukkah decorations thrown in. He’d hardly been able to move for snowmen and candy canes.

Anya pouted. “No,” she said more patiently than he’d expected, “you decided. But one little Santa and a wreath on the door is hardly anything at all.” She thought that if she could just get the proverbial door open a little bit then eventually he’d have to give in and then she could use the new decorations.

Giles thought about it for a moment and, totally oblivious to Anya’s long-term plans, decided that a little bit wasn’t going too far. “Fine, you can have the wreath, if you can make one of real holly and mistletoe, but that plastic monstrosity is completely unacceptable.”

Anya practically bounced with glee in a way that usually had something to do with money. “I’ll make up for it with the snowman!”

“No! No snowmen!!” Giles stated firmly. This year Anya was not going to get the better of him. He was resolved.

“But . . . ” She began to protest.

“NO BUTS.” Giles was beginning to feel like he had a handle on the situation. “One more word and there will be no wreath, nothing.” It was a strange threat and… strangely effective too.

“Are we running a business here or… just playing shop?” Anya complained, as she folded the blow up Santa carefully. You never knew when a plastic demon might come in handy.

Giles shook his head. “To be honest I have no idea anymore.” Between training the slayer and dealing with the occasional apocalypse it was a wonder that any business got done at all. He supposed that he had her to thank for that and their combined livelihoods.

He pulled his mind back to the rather more pressing problem of keeping Anya out of his hair until closing time. He gave a small grin as he thought of the perfect thing. And as usual she reacted with the utter surety that such an expression meant trouble. Giles grabbed one of the marble mortar and pestle sets from the shelf with a gleam in his eye.

“Um, Anya? I have a small job for you.” Should take you the rest of the afternoon too, he thought to himself.

“Here,” He handed her the mortar and pestle, and she stared at them with a puzzled look on her face. “Grind me up a pound of powdered myrrh would you?”

For once in her very long life Anya was totally floored. “You’re kidding.”

Giles raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like I am?” He rather suspected he looked like an owner and manager. And about time.

Anya squared her shoulders and set herself for an argument. “You never give the bad jobs to the girls, or Buffy.”

Giles saw the stance and pulled out the one argument that always won out. “They are not employed here, you are.” Anya said nothing so he continued. “You see,” he pointed out, “I give you money, you work for me.” He turned his back on her and walked out the back, confident that for once, he’d had the last word. Where was the dedication and devotion to a job well done that there had been when he’d been looking forward to being a green grocer?

He didn’t see Anya stick her tongue out at him as he left.

**********

It was just before closing time when Willow and Tara arrived at the Magic Box. All the gang usually met for an hour or two at the end of the day. It had become a well-established habit. Not that there had been anything to really meet for lately. Things had been decidedly quiet recently. It was like all the demons in Sunnydale were on holiday. They might have left to spend the holidays with their broodmates. Even Spike was gone for a month or two. He said something about a pressing engagement in Chicago. The mystery was solved a few days later when a fungus demon showed up looking for Spike and the twenty kittens he owed to it. It had gotten quite irate when they informed it that Spike was out of town. Buffy had been forced to take action. They could have written to Spike to let him know he was now off the hook, but no one knew where he was. And besides after causing them that trouble no one was really of a mind to let him stop sweating it out in the Windy City.

All anyone could think about was how many more scampering kittens he’d lost out there. And to whom.

Anya was standing at the counter, carefully measuring pale yellowish powder into small plastic packets from what looked like a mortar. Tara looked curious but said nothing. Willow just couldn’t let it pass. It was an opportunity after all.

“You shouldn’t be doing that out here in public, they can arrest you for that you know,” she quipped.

Anya looked startled. “Is myrrh illegal? Or is it that I broke it down into smaller lots, because there was nothing on the label that said it had to be sold in the original packaging? Giles made me do it. I was following his orders.” She began to quickly sweep the filled packages into a drawer and pulled a cloth over the scales on the counter.

Willow grinned. Anya was such an easy target sometimes.

Suddenly she turned thoughtful though. “Still, if it’s illegal then there might be a higher street value?” she mused. Willow could practically see dollar signs revolving in her eyes.

“No, myrrh isn’t illegal, and you aren’t doing anything wrong. Willow was only teasing.” Tara added as she put her bag down on the table.

“I knew that.” Anya insisted, though she still looked a little wary and perhaps a little disappointed that there wasn’t a black market in gram bags.

Still, she thought, there was a definite mark-up to be had in selling in smaller quantities. Perhaps Giles was finally getting the idea about running a business. Buy in bulk and sell in small quantities. Excellent.

“Spoilsport.” Willow whispered in Tara’s ear.

“Tease.” Tara whispered back.

“You didn’t fool me for a second.” Anya uncovered the scales and went back to her measuring, dedicating her mind to working out just what the mark-up would be worth of they sold all of this.

“What are you doing that for?” Tara asked, curious.

“We were out of powdered myrrh, so Giles asked me to grind up one of the blocks we had.” Anya still wasn’t impressed by that. She was the Assistant Manager after all, even if she didn’t have anyone to manage.

Tara looked at the mortar full of powder sitting on the bench. “And you used that? It must have taken you forever.” She was impressed, that was a long, hard, messy job. Myrrh had a tendency to get a bit sticky with the least moisture in the air. Anya must really have been working hard, and quickly.

Anya just shrugged off the compliment. “It didn’t take as long as you might think.” She gave Tara an enigmatic little grin.

It didn’t remain enigmatic for all that long.

At that moment Giles walked out, his coffee grinder in his hand. “Anya. Why does my coffee grinder smell like a cheap Egyptian perfume?”

Tara turned and picked up what turned out to be a jar of St John’s Wort, trying to hide the smile on her face. Willow just pretended to be very interested in something on a bottom shelf. Tara wouldn’t be happy with her if she dropped Anya in it, no matter how tempting it was. Not that Giles couldn’t figure it out for himself when he looked at the mortar and pestle. He could say goodbye to that grinder. Not that he was big on coffee anyway.

Much more of a tea man.

Anya picked up the box she’d filled with small plastic packets and made for the door to the storage room. “Um, I think I need to be putting this out the back now.” Gathering all the poise she could muster she swept out of the room with the scale under her arm, leaving Giles standing there with realization slowly dawning on him.

Or not so slowly.

“She…?”

“Was probably trying to be efficient,” Tara suggested but her words were drowned out by Giles’ eventual outburst.

“ANYA!!!!” Giles’ bellow held all the dulcet tones of an irate British Sergeant Major. Then he winced, he knew that he’d probably hurt his throat.

The girls couldn’t contain themselves anymore. They collapsed into the chairs and laughed. Unfortunately from Giles’ point of view it was adding insult to injury. He stood glaring at them, not certain what they had to do with things, but not liking any of it one little bit.

“Well? What are you two laughing at?” He demanded imperiously.

This just sent them into a fresh round of giggles.

Giles gave up on them both and went to examine his coffee grinder.

What they were laughing at was probably a little different. Tara was laughing at Anya’s continued efforts to do well for the business and the friction that caused with the slightly less capitalist owner of the Magic Box. Willow… Willow was just laughing at Anya.

And at Tara’s own laughter. It was infectious.

Oh and at Giles’ face. A perfect picture that could have been titled ‘Reaction to Anya.’ Most of them had displayed that expression from time to time. Some more than others.

And suddenly Tara knew what to get Mr Giles for Christmas. Or at least what she could get for him on Anya’s behalf.

Eventually, they pulled themselves together and went to tidy up a bit. Despite her obvious attempts to maintain profitability Anya had left a fine layer of powder on the counter where she was working. Tara tipped the last of the powdered myrrh into another plastic bag and took the mortar and pestle out to wash. Willow grabbed a cloth and began to wipe over the counter down.

“You know you can buy a grinder for such things from a laboratory supply house. They are industrial strength and can be set to produce different size particles, from talcum powder size to sugar size and bigger even,” Willow offered, trying to be helpful, but also to point out that Anya shouldn’t have used the coffee grinder.

She wasn't going to let the ex-demon forget about that for a while.

“I don’t think I will ever get the myrrh out of this.” Giles observed mournfully, as he filed that bit of information away for next week’s order list. He supposed that it depended on just how much they could make by buying the blocks and grinding them down. Anya would know how to work that out. No matter her faults she did have a talent for the retail trade.

Willow didn’t have a clue about ways to fix his grinder, so she simply kept wiping, giving the counter a final polish before rearranging the stock back where it was usually kept. Giles put the ruined grinder away under the counter, muttering something about buying a new one out of Anya’s salary. Willow knew he’d never do it. Anya, for all her quirks, kept the shop running, and at a profit. Giles’ talent at business lay mostly with knowing the stock and being the one who could be bothered to do the books afterwards. Anya was strictly a ‘show me the money’ woman. The idea of paying part of that over in tax horrified her, until she discovered the concept of tax deductions and refund cheques. So whilst he had little knowledge of marketing or salesmanship, and was more likely to spend his days reading the new book stock than selling it, Anya made the business work. She irritated Giles almost to distraction but he still had a soft spot for her – not to mention a full wallet, largely because of her efforts.

Willow decided that now would be a good time to bring up the subject that she and Tara had discussed that morning. Giles needed a little distraction before he was driven to it by Anya.

“Have you given any thought to what we should do for the holidays this year?” Willow asked, attempting to make it sound like the idea had just occurred to her.

Giles looked up. “As a matter of fact, I’ve given it a great deal of thought and I think I may have something that will suit all of us no matter what our religious preference – or lack of it.” He stood up and cleaned his glasses. “I had intended to wait until everyone gets here to tell you all though, so I don’t have to repeat myself endlessly apart from when it becomes obvious that Xander wasn’t paying attention at all.”

Willow’s curiosity couldn’t let that pass unchallenged. Secrets. She was bad at keeping them, but she liked to think that she could weasel them out of most people. Even if the methods that she applied with Tara to discover what she’d bought her for her birthday were not really applicable to this situation… or anyone other than her lover. “Could you give me a hint?”

Giles looked at her and put on his implacable look. “No. You’ll have to wait and find out along with everyone else.” He relented and gave her a little smile. “I think you’ll like the idea though.” At least he hoped she did. It really wasn't Willow, or Tara, that he had to worry about. There would be objections from at least two of the other three ladies he was sure. And he was equally sure that the objections would be for very different reasons.

At that moment both doors opened. Through the front door came Dawn, practically bouncing - as usual - with her schoolbag over her shoulder, and Xander looking somewhat pale. Through the door that lead out the back came Tara bearing a tray with cups, milk, a teapot, and cookies.

At least, Giles thought, there would be no Myrrh flavoured coffee. They were very fortunate that he’d checked before putting the beans in.

“Hey Dawnie, Xander. How was your day?” Tara asked brightly.

“Great!” Dawn replied, as she dumped her bag in the corner and slid into one of the chairs at the table. As Giles sometimes commented she always reclined at such an angle that he was often afraid that she would slip under the table. She reached across and grabbed a cookie. “Jason Maddox spoke to me today! He’s like, such a total hunk.” She beamed happily. After months of being ignored he’d spoken… to her. And she hadn’t been a group or anything. It was just the two of them - speaking.

“I may want to meet this young man.” Willow stated in such elderly tones that Giles raised his eyebrow at her.

Tara looked over, knowing full well what Willow meant but unable to resist a raised eyebrow of her own.

Willow, noticing all the elevated eyebrows in the room, was forced to explain. “Well, you know, I just like to check out Dawn’s friends. That’s all.” Another eyebrow from Tara. “No. Not check out. Keep up with. Yes. Keep up with.”

“He’s not exactly a friend, yet.” Dawn admitted through her smile at the two lovers playful teasing. “But he did ask me to help him study for the history test.”

“Is academia sexy again?” Willow asked. Eyebrows. “Cool. I mean is academia cool? Are nerds back in?”

Another eyebrow. This time from Dawn.

“Not that you’re a nerd Dawnie. I mean… Well studying together can lead to-” Willow noticed those eyebrows once more. Would they never settle down? “Knowledge. Studying can lead to increased knowledge.” She nodded firmly to emphasize her point.

“It didn’t help me,” Xander reminded her. “And it never lead to anything else either,” he added quickly realizing that Anya would be around somewhere and that Tara was already there. “Willow was always very big on the knowledge.”

“Anyway,” Giles said to Dawn, desperate to stop this line of conversation before Anya came back and gave him a headache, “There’s no problem there. You can bring him over here any afternoon after school.” Giles offered, in tones that suggested that she had no other options – at least until Buffy could pass sentence.

“Giles is right Dawn. There should be someone around, and we’re all here of an afternoon,” Tara suggested. She wouldn’t have been quite so draconian if she’d spoken first. She would have suggested before dinner back at the house. But she wasn’t going to fracture the united front that was very essential in dealing with Dawn.

Dawn toyed absently with her chocolate chip cookie “We were going to study at his place,” she mentioned. If she slipped it in there then maybe there was a chance… If one of the others thought that was okay, or at least that Mr Giles had been too hard on her then…

Or not…

“Not on your life young lady,” Willow responded.

Tara looked at her love. Sometimes she thought that Willow just dropped a little too far into her role. This time she was probably overcompensating for the suggestion of what studying might lead to – what Dawn probably wanted. Boyfriend.

Willow gave her a tiny, private ‘I did it again’ shrug, then Tara turned her attention back to Dawn. She just looked at the youngest member of their group, remembering what it was like to want someone to like you and the lengths that she would have gone to get Willow to like her. But this was the look, the one that told you that you wouldn’t be getting away with anything. Willow and Dawn both knew it well. The younger woman looked down at the table.

“Hun, you can study out the back.” Tara began as a compromise – but without breaking the united front. Besides, Buffy might be keen on Dawn even having a boy over to study at the house. “But I don’t think going over his place would be a very good idea, sweetie.”

“But all we’re going to do is study.” Dawn pleaded, knowing that it was a lost cause, but not willing to simply give up. It was also likely to be the truth for some time yet. Jason had to get to know her a little better before she could hope for anything more than that.

And getting to know her didn’t mean getting to know her sister’s friends and an elderly ex-librarian – no matter how cool some of them were. And besides, all of whom would be looking over their shoulders all the time.

“That may be what you think, but I’ll bet he’s thinking something different entirely.” Xander offered from his wealth of experience as a hormone driven teenager.

Dawn grinned.

“Which is a bad thing!” Xander insisted.

Dawn’s face became appropriately glum. If she’d already lost then she needed cut her losses, behave and then get them to like Jason. Then there would be more studying… maybe in her room. By the time that came around they’d know if they liked each other enough to even consider a kiss.

It wasn't like Jason was some rampaging vampire, or she was about to do anything wrong. Buffy had made that mistake, and it was a lesson well learned. The end of the world tended to teach them all things. She’d never liked Angel. He’d had strange hair.

At the sound of Xander’s voice Anya’s head appeared around the storage room door and, confirming that it was indeed her man, she practically launched herself at him even if there was some running involved. Xander knowing her ways, had braced himself as soon as he saw her coming – ready for the catch. After the hugging and the kissing and the embarrassing, explicit, endearments were over she pulled him over to a chair and ensconced herself safely in his lap, where the wrath of Giles could not touch her.

That was Xander’s function, to support, love and stand up for her. Oh and give her lots of sex.

“How’s my baby?” Anya asked as she carefully examined his pale complexion.

“I’m ok.” Xander offered, half-heartedly.

“You over that stomach flu yet.” Willow teased, knowing full well that it was no flu that had kept him from eating for two days. Anya still hadn’t quite mastered the art of potting sarcasm.

“I think so, I may have some soup tonight.” Xander said, keeping one eye on Anya as he did. Just in case she got it.

“I’ll make it for you, love.” Anya gave him a hug for emphasis.

“Thanks sweets, but I got some ready made in a can. I didn’t want to put you to all that trouble after a hard days work.” Xander replied, managing somehow to keep a perfectly straight face when he was really terrified that she might have some leftovers she could puree.

Anya beamed. “He’s so thoughtful.” She rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek, as he glared at the others, hoping to keep them from making a comment. “I’ll have to reward you for being such a good boy. As well as such a big one.”

No one met his gaze. Tara looked away, Dawn concentrated on eating her cookie, and Willow put her hand over her mouth and pretended to cough to cover for the giggles that she couldn’t suppress.

Willow pulled herself together and looked out the window, waiting impatiently for the last member of the gang to arrive. Her vigil was rewarded by the sight of Buffy dashing across the street, dodging traffic as she ran.

Buffy dashed into the front door and threw herself into a chair. “Did I miss anything?”

“Er, nothing of consequence.” Giles offered and she subsided, seeming disappointed that there was nothing for her to throw herself into. “But I do have something I want to discuss with you all, if no one has anything else?”

“New big bad in town? Some nasty demon on the loose?” She really, really wanted to beat something up after a shift at the fast food place where she worked. “The cookies are all gone?!” Buffy’s last statement was more of a protest than a question as she glimpsed the empty plate.

“First in, best dressed,” quoted Dawn as she nibbled on her second cookie. Willow, Tara and Xander all covered the cookies that were in there hands. Giles just blinked, he hadn’t had a cookie either.

“You’ll end up looking like a blimp with mega-zits.” Buffy told her sister – knowing it would never be true. Dawn had her head screwed on. She wanted to be healthy for the right reasons. And some of what Buffy was having to start thinking were the wrong ones – boys. Dawn was never going to let herself put on too much weight.

Dawn poked out a cookie-covered tongue at her big sister as Willow waved them both silent. “Giles has something important to say and Dawnie… Eww.” Willow herself was practically bursting with curiosity. She sat down and looked up at him expectantly as Dawn put her tongue away.

“Ah hem.” Giles cleared his throat and took off his glasses. “I was wondering what we would do for Christmas this year. We had Thanksgiving at my place and I thought that for Christmas we could do something different.”

“Disneyland?” Anya asked, beginning to get excited. She’d seen a documentary about it on TV and she had developed an urge to see the place for herself.

Giles frowned. “No, not Disneyland.” He was never sure how they managed to get so distracted, so often. Not this time though. He had to suppose it was an American thing. He put his glasses on again. “I have a friend who owns several holiday cabins in the mountains, and he’s offered me the use of two of them over the Christmas holiday.”

“Will there be snow?” Xander asked. He liked snow, although his experience of it was limited.

“There should be, further up the mountain.” Giles replied. “Winter sets in a little later there as it is quite sheltered by the geography. We should have no problem getting there and yet we will be able to find some snow. You should I mean.” There was no way that he was getting into a snowball fight. “And there is a mountain lake close by too.”

Tara was already beginning to get enthusiastic, sensing the possibilities. She’d missed snow at Christmas and longed for the crisp outdoor air rather than the not very different Sunnydale weather. Willow was a little more cautious about the concept; she tended to feel inadequate in the great outdoors – though last year in the forest at Yule had been good.

Bugs didn’t like the winter weather, so there was a plus.

Anya was silent, her mind ticking over. She was contemplating the idea of her and Xander, alone in a cabin in the woods. A smile slowly formed across her face. Then she thought about the lost profits if they were closed for an extra day around the holidays. Her smile subsided. But Xander… all naked and sweaty in front of the fire…

Dawn and Buffy were both silent, and both for the same reason. Somehow they had not been able to talk to each other about Christmas. It was a subject they both avoided, by mutual consent. They both still felt the loss of their mother very keenly, and this would be the first Christmas they’d spent without her. Neither had really wanted to face the issue. They didn’t want to try to be happy for fear of offending the other, but they both thought that maybe, for the purposes of healing, they needed to be.

Dawn was the first to speak. “That would be . . . nice.” It really could be. It could be what they needed. She definitely didn’t want to be moping around, worried about upsetting her sister. Or being upset by her.

“You really think?” Buffy asked, a little more sceptical.

“Sure, a nice holiday away in the mountains. I’ve never been to the mountains for a holiday. Sounds cool. ” Dawn ran out of things to say that wouldn’t make it sound as if she wanted to forget what Christmas had meant to them before, with Mom.

Buffy thought about it for a minute. At least Dawn would be happy, which was the important thing as far as she was concerned. And they wouldn’t be alone together. She’d been, perhaps irrationally, afraid that the guys might not have wanted to ‘interfere’ in their first Christmas without Mom. She needed them around. “Ok, then count us in.”

Giles was relieved. The main reason he’d contacted his friend was to get these two out of town. He’d seen how painful Thanksgiving was for them, and he knew that after the great Christmas they’d all had last year with Joyce, that the girls would really feel her loss at this time. He was really beginning to worry about Buffy. She was becoming far too serious, devoting herself to her duties to the exclusion of nearly everything else. While Giles would normally encourage a certain devotion to duty, he felt that Buffy was going too far. She needed to have fun, and be a young woman again rather than the Slayer, or a substitute mother.

He wasn’t even sure that she’d figured out what she wanted her relationship with Dawn to be yet.

Giles thought about it and decided to tell Anya later, perhaps tomorrow or the next day, when they’d be leaving. He knew there would be an explosion and he preferred to deal with it privately. He’d speak to the others later when Anya and Xander were gone.

“As I was saying,” Giles continued. “There are two cabins that we can have – the others are being renovated this year. One is small, rather basic and big enough for two and no more. The other is bigger with space to sleep six but with more amenities.”

“We’ll take the small one.” Willow and Anya spoke simultaneously and then glared at each other.

Each was thinking the same thing. Privacy. Nothing to do but… be in each other’s company.

Giles stepped in before anything unpleasant started. “Lets settle this in a civilized fashion.” He’d been worried about this.

“You mean…” Xander began. A duel?

“Precisely. We’ll toss a coin for it.” Giles pulled a quarter out of his vest pocket.

“Heads or tails?”

“Heads!” shouted Anya, beating out Willow who had been about to choose the same thing.

Giles tossed the coin and it fell on the table falling flat. Willow whooped. “Tails!” she shouted triumphantly.

“Best out of three?” Anya suggested hopefully

“No, it’s settled. Tara and Willow will share the small cabin.” Giles was torn between feeling smug that Anya lost, and worrying because that meant she would be in the same cabin he was.

Anya sulked muttering about Willow being a witch and controlling the coin. She was thinking about not being able to be alone with Xander… and the fact that she’d lost to Willow. Even if she had won Xander.

Willow was happy with her victory, and was contemplating all the fun her and Tara could have. There were possibilities in her head already. Xander and Anya had privacy all the time… she and Tara. They shared a house with Buffy and Dawn. Privacy was harder to come by… and it was going to be savoured all the more. She bent over and whispered in her love’s ear.

“Just a suggestion,” she said as the other’s looked at her and at Tara who’d flushed a bright pink.

Xander had the last word for once and summed things up for them all.

“It should be an interesting holiday.”

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

(To be continued.)



Anates tuas in acie instrue.
(Get your ducks in a row.)


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 4:57 am 
Heh, I had to laugh at Willow organising her cloths and specificly her socks :)

Quote:


Willow picked up the one odd sock that was somehow left over and added it to the collection of single socks in the bottom draw waiting for her mass reorganization.






a collection of lonely socks...aaaaww.... Willow would do that though :)



I might have missed it but what does Giles want to tell Anya from which he expects an explosion ?



Willow and Tara in a cabin by themselves, hmm... whatever will they do to keep warm ?? : -->>:



Btw. Katharyn; your dialogs ain't that bad really, you do them just fine :)



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine

Edited by: Grimlock72 at: 12/16/02 3:58:54 am


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 5:32 am 
Great Start!



I wonder wha'ts wrong with Buffy though.



Stef :p



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 6:04 am 
Enjoyed this...looking forward to the next part.



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 9:09 am 
This part - though she does not say so - is pretty much all Kerry. Her idea. Her writing. All I did was redraft it so that my parts in a while to follow did not seem too lame.



Selfish of me I know.



Now Kerry is going to put herself down alot in this... It's all her. I was like... contracted... to write stuff. The fact that I chose to write smut is incidental.



Its Kerry's story.



Thanks for the early comments guys and Grimlock - when I referenced smut above, you should take that to be a hint towards the answer to your question. "How will they keep warm?"



Hey... its me *S* If it smut its me... if its actually telling a story its Kerry. Follow that rule of thumb. And as for my dialogues... well these aren't mine! Good ain't they?!*S*



Katharyn.





-------------------------




If I want a little pussy, I got my own to play with.
Chance in Chance.




------------------------

Edited by: Katharyn at: 12/16/02 8:11:01 am


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 9:47 am 
oooh, I'm liking this already! looking forward to read more :heart



Patricia

---------------

W-what were they looking at?

-The hotness of you doofus!!!





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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 12:33 pm 
Thanks for nice reception folks. Its been a while since I posted anything here (thats why Katharyn insisted that I be the one to do the posting).



There is lots more to come, and while I seem to have done much of this bit there are other bits which are nearly all Katharyn. But overall it was a team effort, so we share the blame equally.



Things left unsaid in this part will be explained in the next which should be online tonight my time. (Australian Eastern Standard Time)



Thanks to you all for reading this story and special thanks to those who posted.



Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit

(There has not been any great talent without an element of madness)



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 1:20 pm 
I like how natural Willow and Tara are in even doing the simplest of tasks like laundry. That whole Thanksgiving memory cracked me up. The thought of Anya baking a pumpkin pie. I shudder at the mere thought of anyone making it but Anya especially.



And Anya and Giles … Oh my God. I nearly fell off my chair. I could totally picture her going overboard with the decorations.

Quote:
You never knew when a plastic demon might come in handy.




Using the coffee grinder? That was ingenious on Anya’s part. Nothing like speeding up the process and using time productively.



And you never know how many scampering kittens Spike could lose in Chicago. There are bad back alley poker games on them mean streets. Thanks. :p



This is awesome. Can’t wait for next part. This should be an interesting holiday.



--celia



---------------------------------



"That was just rude. Now I forget what I was saying."



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 7:28 pm 
I like seeing the gang worrying about ordinary life during the holidays when not a demon was stirring, not even a Spike.



--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 7:42 pm 
Yay holiday fic!! And just love the coss toin, Willow and Anya sure have their minds on one thing, I really don't know what that is myself but you know. Something or another and now t/w will have that whole cabin to themselves, what might they do with all that privacy :love :blush

-------------------------------

Buffy?

Let's change it, the Discovery channel has koala bears.



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 10:16 pm 
Groovy! A new holiday fic. :) This looks to be lovely. Loved the coin toss and Willow's ensuing cheering. :grin Can't wait to see what happens at their snug little private cabin. ;)





"We've got the only librarian who can rip off your arm with his leg. People respect that." - Terry Pratchett



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2002 11:38 pm 
Wiltar - Thanks... I liked it when I read it too. Kerry might be rusty, but she knows what she is doing.



Celia - Kerry has a great style which lends itself to exploring these little things as you mention, plus she can drop in memories which crack you up. Sometimes I think she is quite twisted*S*



Did you get to read last years Xmas fic? There is decoration history and here too it isa key plot point. Watch those decorations.



The grinder... see that is very much a kerry moment. Do I have any clue how to spell myrrh, let alone how it arrives and how to grind it up? No.



As for scampering kittens in the Windy City. Actually I have to claim that one... and who as I thinking about??



Thanks.



DMW - I think I can safely say that there are no demons in this fic. Ex-one yeah, but no actual demons. And I never thought of that line about stirring. That's a good one!



Xita - You are coming at this arse over tit sweetie! (As you often do) knowing what you do about the future parts... asking for them... but not having seen this yet. Glad you liked this. The coin toss was a nice touch by Kerry, and yeah... isn;t that one thing the same as your one thing?



Leatherqueen - Groovy? Kay...*S* There is a fair amount of Anya/Willow rivalry in this fic. Why? Cos its fun to write. At least until they get...



But nah... I am not going to spoil it.



Thanks everyone, Kerry will be along with the second part which she also wrote a little later.



Katharyn.

-------------------------




If I want a little pussy, I got my own to play with.
Chance in Chance.




------------------------

Edited by: Katharyn at: 12/16/02 10:40:28 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 12:32 am 
Kerry and Katharyn what an enjoyable part! The Giles/Anya interaction was lovely (between Anya's "plan" for the decorations, and Gile's distraction with his counter-plan resulting in Anya using the Coffee grinder for the myrrh was just :lol ), and I loved Anya's dilemma with her thinking, ("Then she thought about the lost profits if they were closed for an extra day around the holidays. Her smile subsided. But Xander... all naked and sweaty in front of the fire..."). I guess orgasms won out over profits this time ;) , although, something tells me Anya will make sure Giles is cleaning his glasses on a continual basis when she finds out how long they will be gone (ie just how much profit they will lose). Poor Giles having to share a cabin with Anya/etc.



As for Willow and Tara, I just loved how she kept digging herself deeper with the "checking out" exchange. Yay for Willow winning the coin toss (as well as getting one up on Anya), and now that W&T get the private cabin I look forward to seeing Willow's "suggestion" (that caused Tara to blush) to become a reality (Katharyn seeing as this is your part of the "action" I look forward to the "good shivers" ;) )! Can't wait for the next part guys!

Edited by: VampNo12  at: 12/17/02 12:18:58 am


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 12:38 am 
I loved the part about the gang all exercising various strategems to avoid having to eat the pumpkin pie.

Reminds me of myself growing up when I didn't want to eat something I would just throw it behind our dishwasher.

The only problem was that it eventually smelled like rotten garbage and I got an earful over that one, I can tell you.

Love the intimate character details, just some peaceful holiday banter without the demony presence.

As Fisher Price says in their ads, "oh, the possibilities."

That's Willow and Tara's plan for the cabin all to themselves, I'd imagine.



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:26 am 
Title: The Holiday Fic 2002
Authors: Katharyn and Forrister.
Disclaimer: Neither Katharyn or myself own these characters. Joss does. (Some people don’t appreciate things they own.)
Rating: R WARNING – Parts of this fic contains smut. Yes, real smut. (I’m not responsible – that’s my co-author’s department.) I’ve been told that R is an appropriate rating for the fic as a whole.
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of Season 5. Season 6 does not exist. (I’m still doing the whole refusal to live in Joss’s reality thing.) I guess you’d call this a post S5 alternate universe. I call it a much nicer place to be.
Summary: They have a place to go – now all they need to do is get there. Somehow that never seems to be as easy as it might appear.

Thanks: This time thanks are more of a general affair. Thanks for the feedback, and all the nice comments. Thanks to Katharyn who seems hell bent on giving me most of the credit here . . . . most of this was discussed before it was written and many of the ideas are hers - I just wrote them up. But one thing I will say categorically – the smut is all hers.


Chapter Two

Giles was explaining the arrangements to Anya who had one eye on him and another on a potential customer. Customers were, he supposed, why they were here. If only they wouldn’t touch things. “We’ll be leaving on the twenty-first. There are two-” He stopped as Anya interrupted him.

“Sorry,” she gave a tiny chuckle, trying to be friendly then smiled sweetly, whether that was towards him or the customer he couldn’t be sure.

Giles was just sure that he was in trouble.

“I thought you said the twenty-first,” she remarked in a dangerous whisper, still smiling her ‘selling’ smile - not wanting to deter the customer from spending her money. It would be her money soon enough. Okay… theirs.

“Yes,” he told her.

“Of December?”

“Yes.” He thought that he could guess what was coming.

Anya frowned. Could he be that stupid? She tried breathing as Xander had told her to. She wasn't going to call him ‘stupid.’ She really wasn’t. She was determined that he was going to realise it for himself. “Do you know how many super-profitable shopping days we’ll miss?”

“Yes. Three.” He had considered that, but it was the holidays. Someone should take a stand against crass commercialism.

“Three? So we’ll be leaving on the evening of the twenty-first, after we close?” That was a little better at least.

“No Anya, in the morning. It’s a long way up there and I would prefer to arrive in daylight.” There had been an unfortunate incident with driving past it four or five times the last time he’d been up there, shortly before Buffy had come to Sunnydale.

His last real holiday.

Morning. She gasped, taken aback. So why three days? Unless…“Weren’t you going to open Christmas Eve?” she asked him, absolutely horrified. “Last minute shopping. Novelty gift ideas. Twenty-five percent mark-up. That’s an extra fifty percent profit – at least.” Her voice began to rise in tone and volume until Giles gestured pointedly at the browsing customer.

It had taken him several days to think of a way to tell Anya that The Magic Box would be closing in the peak retail season. He didn’t want their holiday to consist of just a day or two in the mountains – most of which would be taken up with travel, packing and unpacking – not to mention Christmas Dinner… which seemed to take two days to prepare. He wanted more time to allow them to unwind properly, and where he could forget about management and sales and the whole parcel of Christmas commercialism. If he’d opened a Green Grocer’s he’d just have had to sell more sprouts… But being in the gift trade… He shuddered. Besides, and more importantly than that, Buffy and Dawn needed to be away from home during what could be a very painful time. And finally there were the traditional reasons - they had all been pushing things a bit lately. A holiday away from Sunnydale would do them all the world of good.

No Slaying.

No Watching.

No studying.

No selling.

“We don’t have to close at all. I can leave you here to run the store while the rest of us go on holiday, if you’d prefer that.” Giles stated. It wasn’t what he wanted, most of the time anyway, but he’d been thinking quite carefully about it. And it seemed to have the desired effect.

It stopped Anya, dead, in mid-rant. She was looking forward to this trip. Spending time with Xander, playing in the snow sounded like fun as did enjoying the great outdoors. Ok, well, apart from the attractions of the man she loved the rest sounded a little boring, but in a very real way these people were all the family she had, and she wanted to be in the family holiday. Just once. Her mercenary instincts warred with her need to belong.

Besides how was she going to know how to do a family holiday with hers and Xander’s children if she’d never experienced one – and his experiences were less than wonderful.

Giles watched as the thoughts and emotions played across her face. He knew that she’d never pass up the holiday, not even for the pleasure of making them a profit. A passing thought of how quiet the mountain haven would be without Anya’s incessant conversation drifted, once more, through his mind. Just a passing thought, even if it kept passing through… quite regularly, but he knew he’d miss her if she wasn’t there with them, but there was no way he’d admit it. They would simply close a few days before Christmas and head off, free from the ‘rat race,’ free from the responsibility. And if there was the added bonus of being able to avoid the seasonal madness, when things had got really crazy in the store last year, then that was just an early present he’d happily give himself.

“This means that we’re going to really have to push sales for what time we have left,” she reasoned out loud, realizing that it was pointless to argue unless she wanted to keep the store open by herself. She had proven herself to him often enough before – he would let her do that. But she had nothing to prove anymore. “I think we should have a pre-Christmas sale. Get in the customers and make hay while the Christmas tree is still up. Everyone does the sales after Christmas. Let’s beat them to it. Plus we get to set the sales prices based on the inflated ones.”

“I think you mean, ‘to make hay while the sun shines’.” Giles corrected.

“Whatever.” Now her mind was full of more important matters than the correct usage of English.

“And you inflated the prices?” Come to think of it there had been a few items that he’d hadn’t been able to remember labeling that way.

“Only by ten percent – and people are still buying!” she reasoned happily.

“Isn’t that illegal?” he asked. Setting sales prices based on inflated ones…

She waved away his concerns. “All we’re doing is returning prices to what they were, which will help you remember them!” He was getting old.

“Thank you so much for your consideration.” He couldn’t doubt her strategy though. She was always spot on.

“We need signs, and lights, and tinsel, and..”

Nearly always.

“NO LIGHTS . . . “ Giles began loudly. Anya gesticulated wildly in the direction of the sole customer.

“No lights, and only a little tinsel.” Giles repeated in a strained whisper. He was really serious this time. After last year’s performance… He still had nightmares about that.

“But we get signs.” Anya stated, determined to get her way in something. She’d been expecting the light restriction, planned for it.

Giles knew when it was time to give in gracefully, but he fought one last rearguard action. “I suppose so. But keep it . . . dignified.”

Anya nodded, not really listening to a word he said. She didn’t need to. She’d been researching some of the best displays in the country – and outside it. She was happy planning a display to literally rival Macy’s. At least in the space that she had available.

Giles knew that look and hoped that he’d survive long enough to get up to the mountains.

The customer, a rather drab gentleman in a raincoat, had chosen his purchase and headed to the counter, seemingly totally oblivious to the little drama. Anya dashed over to serve him and Giles went off in search of a nice, hot, relaxing cup of tea, perhaps with a dash of rum in it.

See? She drove him to thoughts of alcohol. Did he really want to spend a week with her?

Actually yes he did. With all of them.

Quite amazing really.


**********

Buffy dusted the last of the vampires and stopped to brush their last remains off her jacket, once again musing that it was easier than burying the bodies. These were the first vamps she’d seen all week. It seemed that they tended to get really quiet around the holidays, at least that was the pattern she’d observed in the past. It was only the bigger baddies who operated during this time, and this year there was no sign of any activity in that department either.

Well the bigger bad guys and those with the totally lame plans like Harmony.

She sat herself down on one of the stone benches thoughtfully provided by the managers of this particular cemetery and turned her mind back to what had been worrying her before she’d been so rudely interrupted. Anyone would have thought that she came out on patrol to kill vampires.

Well usually she did.

Tonight, and for few weeks now, she’d been coming out here to think. Staying out thinking. And what about?

What else?

Dawn. Her sister had been enthusiastic enough, as only Dawn could be, at the idea of a trip to the mountains but didn’t seem to know or care that it was Christmas. Buffy herself shared that sentiment. They hadn’t put up any decorations or gone shopping for gifts, by some sort of unspoken mutual agreement. Neither had even mentioned it to the other. The memories of last year were too special, too precious. It seemed that trying to re-create that Christmas spirit was somehow a betrayal of those memories, of their mother.

For her, all her memories of Christmas seemed to contain her mom. Racing downstairs to open presents on Christmas morning, under the watchful eye of her mom. Trimming the tree with mom. Shopping with mom. Helping mom in the kitchen. Just mom – or if she was brutal with herself… the concept of mom. Sometimes she was afraid that she wasn’t remembering the real mom – and that just made it worse.

The thought of doing any of those things without mom was too painful. She knew Dawn felt the same way, just by the pained look in her eyes as they passed the many Christmas displays in the main street of Sunnydale. Christmas was everywhere, but not in their hearts – at least not here. She hoped it was just here… where Christmas had been for so long.

She was so grateful to Giles for arranging a way to escape from all that Christmas, and all those memories.

Buffy looked at her watch and realized that it was time she was heading back. Tara would have dinner on the table and Willow would scold her if she arrived late. Besides she could head out for more thinking later. Perhaps some slaying too. But most of all, Dawn would worry, and she didn’t want that at all.

No. Definitely not at all.

*********

“We’ll need decorations, and a tree. No. Wait. There’ll be plenty of trees there. Right?” Tara could almost see Willow’s mind in action, shuffling the possibilities. “Although if they’re oaks instead of pines we could be in trouble. Perhaps we should get a backup tree? Just in case?”

A backup tree? Tara had to smile.

“Slow down hun,” she stopped Willow from going any further. Her love could get really carried away once she got her teeth into a project and this Christmas was more a time for flexibility and relaxation, rather than careful planning. That had been last year, the past. This was the, very real, present. “Sweetie, I think part of the reason Giles organized this is to, you know, get away from all the glitz of Christmas. Perhaps a little holly and mistletoe, and some nice things to eat. But the trees are better left growing outdoors, and the tinsel is best left home.” Trees were always better left outdoors… that was why nature had put them there.

“How are we going to know its Christmas?” Willow hadn’t had much in the way of Christmas growing up. Her family did do a sort of Hanukah thing for her while she was little, but once she’d got too old for games and presents, they’d let it slide. She’d really enjoyed the whole holiday celebration with her friends. Religion wasn’t a part of it for her as much as the spirit of the holiday – going back to the older celebrations that lay in its past.

Including Tinsel…

“We’ll make our own Christmas.” Tara assured her. She’d rather suspected that this trip was Giles attempt to help Buffy and Dawn get past the first painful Christmas without their mother. And it was something that she would have suggested if he hadn’t. Not the cabins, but something that was… else. Tara remembered how painful it had been for her, and she hadn’t been much older than Dawn at the time. “Think of it as like a ‘back to basics’ holiday.” Giles was right, it was what Buffy and Dawn needed.

She hoped.

“Presents. We’re still going to give presents?” Willow had done all of her shopping early this year and didn’t want all that thought and planning going to waste. Besides, she had something really special for her sweetie this year.

“Sure.” Tara replied with a smile. She’d been busy herself, making her gifts as was her custom. If nothing else they’d exchange gifts between themselves… even if there wasn’t a formal time to do that.

Willow wrapped her arms around her love’s waist. “So . . . what did you make me?” Curiosity had been eating at her for weeks now. Tara always gave her gifts that were so very special, personal… wonderful. Things to treasure. It wasn't that she wanted to know, it was just that she wanted to be sure her own gift was worthy of it.

Tara wasn’t going to give any hints though. “That would be telling. You’ll just have to wait and see. Be patient sweetie.”

Willow pulled her closer. “Patience is a virtue, and I’m not feeling particularly virtuous.” She emphasized her point with a kiss that threatened to take Tara’s breath away. “Sure I can’t get it out of you?” Willow purred seductively and used her hands to give just a hint of the sort of persuasion she had in mind.

Tara smiled invitingly. “You’re welcome to try.” Willow’s best efforts wouldn’t get it out of her.

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


It was two days before they were due to leave and the sale had been more than a modest success. Giles had to admit, Anya had done a good job with the sales even though the store looked a bit like a winter wonderland.

Again.

He had been very clear, in his own mind at least, that ‘again’ wasn't going to happen. But she had actually obeyed the word of his instructions if not the spirit. Anya had avoided tinsel entirely, opting instead for decorating the shop with plastic trees topped with a sort of spray on snow that came in an aerosol can. She would go round the displays a couple of times every day and touch up any trees that looked a little bare with another layer of snow spray. Giles didn’t like the way the stuff tended to blow around the store every time the door opened, but had to admit that it had a nice pine smell.

“Surely we have enough of that now?” Giles brushed the dusty white powder off the shoulder of his tweed jacket. If you rubbed up against it there was a dry cleaning bill to follow. It was persistent only in the annoying sense.

“I’m just doing a little touching up.” Anya proceeded with an enthusiasm bordering on obsession. There was no point in a display that was shabby – that was not going to make the sales. Rather it would make them seem like amateurs and she regarded herself as very much a professional when it came to selling these goods for money.

Giles frowned. “Try to keep it to a bare minimum.” He didn’t want to be finding it in his hair for all of the next year. “Remember we’re only open for two more days.” He shuddered to think of the dusting they’d have to do when they got back after New Year. It was the sort of material that would never really go away.

“I know.”

Anya’s disappointment showed in her voice, but after Giles had offered to let her stay her behind she’d decided to keep her complaints on that subject to herself. That had not, however, stopped her speaking out on any other subject.

“These windows look bare,” she continued. “Perhaps I should put a little snow in the corners, on the bottom, to give that winter look.” A tiny little victory like that could open the door to many more – bigger ones. And once he realised how well that could work then he’d trust her to do more next year.

“If this place gets any more of ‘that winter look’ then we’ll have people with snowshoes and dogsleds in here.” He complained to no one in particular. In fact he hadn’t even realised that he’d said it out loud. At least not until…

A little gleam appeared in Anya’s eye. Giles suddenly became alert, knowing how Anya could take a mole hill and build an entire mountain range out of it. He really wanted to nip any further excursions into Christmas mania in the bud. “Anya. No! No dogs, no sleds, no snowshoes.”

Anya muttered something to herself under her breath about non-denominational scenery and went back to her spraying. Later it wasn’t clear to anyone what exactly happened. It was like a mystery that many people tried to solve over several years of musings around Christmas time – as family tended to do. Perhaps it was… a mystical thing. Many things in Sunnydale were.

It could have been an evil nozzle.

The nozzle on the spray can kept getting blocked and Anya would alternately dig at it with a fingernail or pump the button to try and clear it. That wasted a little snow, but it stopped the stuff from getting stuck under her nail. It was at one of these moments that Giles spoke to her and she turned to answer him. The nozzle suddenly began to work again and Giles got the full force of fake snow, squirting up right into his eyes.

Years later people would laugh, including Giles himself.

Right then it hurt.

A lot.

**********


Dawn finished the last of her Christmas shopping. While she didn’t have the enthusiasm for it that she’d had last year, she still wanted to make sure she had something special for everyone. No matter how she and Buffy felt about the holiday, there were the others to think about – and she had to admit that they needed something themselves. Just a something that wasn’t here where the memories were. So she’d gone ahead and bought gifts. Nothing big or ostentatious, just something to let them know that she loved them. She was under every strict instructions that they were all to meet up at the shop in about half an hour, so she began to walk a bit faster, not wanting to be late.

The hardest question of all was what to get for Buffy. Her sister had been all business lately, seldom spending any time with her apart from the normal day to day encounters. Buffy was withdrawn, introspective even. Not like when she’d first… come back. Buffy was there for her… but she was still distant. There was always something... When she wasn’t at college, or working at her part time job, she was training or slaying. Dawn wondered if Buffy cared about anything much nowadays, sometimes she didn’t act like she did. Or more… as if she couldn’t. It was like she was going through the motions again. Ok, there had been that whole being dead thing, but eventually Buffy had come back to them, and for a long while everything seemed mostly normal. But as the holidays grew closer Buffy had simply found more and more things to occupy her time, and Dawn didn’t feel included among them very often.

If she was honest, there had been times she had sought out her own distractions. She understood what Buffy was feeling. She felt it too – just not with quite the same consequences.

It wasn’t like Buffy had stopped loving her, Dawn knew she did. It was more like Buffy was trying to keep more and more busy, as if she was trying to avoid time to think – but then, every so often she still looked as if she’d been thinking way too much.

There had been no decorations this year. Buffy hadn’t mentioned them and Dawn had felt uncomfortable about bringing up the subject. Thanksgiving had been… well painful without mom. Dawn had really tried, but she just couldn’t get into it. Buffy had simply climbed into herself, putting up a wall around her that her sister felt she shouldn’t try to climb but somehow surrounded her too. It was like Buffy was protecting her… and part of that protection was a little like pushing her away. Like two separate rooms in the same fortress.

Together but also apart.

Dawn turned into the main street and crossed the road to the Magic Box in time to see an ambulance pull away. She rushed to Anya who was standing at the door, looking somewhat shocked. It had to be someone that they knew… and being as there was a meeting was soon it could have been any of them.

“What happened? Who is it?” Dawn asked, the taste of fear in her mouth. Injury was something that was common in the scooby gang, but it still made her blood run cold every time someone got hurt and it so rarely involved ambulances or medical attention.

“Giles got some stuff in his eyes. It wasn’t my fault you know.” Anya ran her fingers through her hair in distress and realised that she was rubbing that damned fake snow into it too. “It was that stupid can. I told him about it.”

“Is he ok? No. Of course he isn’t ok, or he wouldn’t be going to hospital.” Dawn grabbed Anya by the shoulders. She needed to know what was going on – more than that everyone else needed to know what was going on. “Anya, have you called anyone, apart from the ambulance that is?”

Anya shook her head.

“Ok, we’ll call Tara and then we’ll lock the door and then go to the hospital.” Anya didn’t even argue with closing the shops – she was really shaken. Dawn knew that Tara would tell Willow and the others. She led Anya back into the shop and sat her down out of the way. Then she went immediately to the phone and dialed home. To her relief Tara answered. She briefly explained the situation, as much as she understood it, and when she’d received some instructions hung up.

“Anya, we need to get to the hospital, Tara said to call a cab. I don’t have any money on me, do you have some?”

Anya was totally occupied with her own thoughts. “It was an accident you know. Health and safety in the work place says that I have to call for medical attention – even if he didn’t want the ambulance.” She muttered. “Now he’ll be blind and I’ll have to look after him and he won’t be able to keep the shop and I’ll lose my job – and I’ll still be looking after him.” Anya’s words sounded a little mercenary but the tears falling down her face were real enough. In anyone else it would have suggested they were thinking about themselves… but that was just who Anya was.

Dawn put her arm around the weeping young woman and gave her a little hug. “I know, it wasn’t your fault. Now do you have any money?” She didn’t really know it because she had no idea what the ‘stuff’ was but it was what Anya needed to hear no matter what the truth was.

“The money is in the till.” Anya stated mechanically, not even sounding excited at the thought of it. “I won’t be able to count the money anymore because it will all be gone in hospital bills and Xander won’t be able to play ‘stack the quarters’ with the change, and then he won’t love me.” Anya burst into a fresh round of tears.

Xander so liked stack the quarter.

Dawn was sure Anya hadn’t really heard what she’d said, but she opened the cash register and took out some money. As an afterthought she left a note with the amount on it so that Giles would know when he came back. Whenever that would be. It could be half an hour… or it could be ages. She needed to know what was wrong.

She was about to call the cab company when she changed her mind and called Xander’s work and left a message for him. Then she called the cab.

It arrived within minutes, which was surprising considering how busy they were over the holiday season. Dawn had to practically bundle Anya into it and they set off to whatever they might face at the hospital.

Buffy was going to want answers.

**********


It was about forty minutes later that Tara and Willow arrived at the hospital with Xander. They should have been there far sooner than that but their good intentions had been lost in the panic. People hurried and they ended up taking longer – besides the ride to the hospital was longer. Seeing his girlfriend, Xander immediately went to comfort Anya who was sitting and sniffling by the coffee machine. By that time he’d already established that somehow this might have partly been her fault.

“What happened?” Willow asked. “All we knew is that Giles was taken to hospital, and that can’t be good. At his age he could’ve had a heart attack, or a stroke, or an ulcer, or something. I knew we’d been making him work too hard. You can’t expect him to keep up all that saving the world stuff, run a business and cope with Anya every day.” She stopped, mainly for lack of oxygen. Tara put an arm around her.

She knew that it was just concern that was getting to Willow. They all just showed it in different ways. “Don’t panic, love. It could be anything, he could have hurt his finger – or…” Tara thought about it, looking for something distracting, “maybe his eyebrow got stuck when he raised it too far. We really shouldn’t worry until we know what we have to be worried about.” Tara said the words, but she was just as afraid as her sweetie. Mr Giles was an important part of her life and she couldn’t help but feel the distress. And at the holidays too.

“Anya said something about him getting something in his eyes.” Dawn offered, not any less worried herself. “Apparently it really hurt him and Anya felt she had to call the ambulance.”

“That’s a relief.” Willow said, then realizing what she’d said she began to try and explain. “Not that it’s good. It’s not good at all. But it’s not a stroke or heart attack or something awful… Or Anya driving him… well anyway.” The import began to sink into her jumbled thoughts. “But his eyes… I hope he’s all right. And what if its serious?” Where would the Watcher, their friend, be without his sight?

Tara’s worry was clear on her face. “He’s getting the best care sweetie, so we should just wait and find out.” Tara hated waiting in hospitals. There were memories there… but everyone needed her while they were doing the same thing. They needed support because, for some reason, pain hurt more than the person who sensed it directly.

Dawn sat herself down next to Xander who was still hugging and whispering to Anya. “Where’s Buffy?” she asked Tara.

“We left a note for her. She’d already left work so she must have been on her way home.” Tara explained. Lately it had been hard to keep track of where Buffy was. Perhaps there was some pre-dinner slaying going on. Which was fine, but Tara just hoped that Buffy would get the note and be here soon. Dawn was obviously uncomfortable here, and would need her sister if the news were bad. Dawn didn’t need to hear any more bad medical news.

*********

Buffy arrived home out of breath from the long run which the patrol had turned into. Too much energy. Exercise gave her something else to do other than brood, which was what she tended to do too often lately – even if that was why she had gone out there anyway after work. The silence in the house surprised her a little, it was usually busy at this time of day. Then she found the note on the coffee table and her heart leapt into her throat.

Giles had been taken to hospital. All the things that had happened to them and Giles had never been taken to hospital before. As she grabbed her coat and raced outside worry filled her. She couldn’t bear to lose Giles, he was so much more to her than just a friend. He was as close to a father figure as she and Dawn had in her life right now. The guys… they were like sisters and a brother to her – but Giles was a little different. She stopped briefly at the bus stop and remembered that the last bus had already long gone. Few routes operated after dark in Sunnydale – for obvious reasons. The vampires called the drivers ‘meals on wheels’ and for good reason. She settled into a fast jog, it was only a couple of miles, less distance than she’d already run today. Slayer strength and endurance were good for something other than fighting.

As she ran she thought about what this might mean to her, and Dawn, and to their little group. Giles was like the stable center that they often took for granted. To Dawn he was the only father figure she really knew. Dawn couldn’t lose anyone else. Too much had been taken from her in the last year. Taken from them. Buffy silently acknowledged her loss as well – which was something that wouldn’t go away no matter how much she worried about her sister. Mom was gone and nothing was going to bring her back. Would Giles be taken from them too? She wasn’t sure how they would ever get on without him. She had the horrible feeling that everything would fall apart.

It would fall apart if anyone else was taken from them. No. That wasn't going to happen. Not again.

She ran through the dark streets and then ducked into the park, which was a short cut. She wasn’t paying full attention at the time, which explained the way the vampire was able to get the jump on her.

Fortunately, he hadn’t been around long enough to know about the Slayer. Not many of them had – all this thinking was keeping their numbers down. Buffy threw him over her shoulder and had Mr. Pointy out and into action before he could stand. In one smooth action she drove it home and let the dust fall. Tucking the stake back into her jacket pocket she continued on her way.

Nothing was going to happen to them.

They weren’t losing anyone.

Not again.

**********

When Buffy arrived at the hospital waiting area it was to the sight of Tara sitting with an arm around Anya, while Willow was doing the same with Dawn. “What happened?” There was no sign of Xander or more importantly Giles. Which meant he was getting seen to already – which was good right?

Dawn jumped up and ran to her, hugging her. The hug did nothing to reassure Buffy who surmised from this that things were bad. She clung to her sister now because Dawn seemed to need her to. The Slayer could face down a demon before dinner and go slaying after dessert, but now she was dealing with a frightened young woman. Two of them if she counted herself.

“As far as we’ve been able to find out, Giles accidentally got some of that snow spray in his eyes. Apparently it was pretty painful.” Willow paused as Tara caught her eye and gave a look at the weeping woman next to her. “Anya called the paramedics straight away and the ambulance bought him here.” Willow saw her sweetie nod slightly. “She did just the right thing” Willow added, being rewarded by a weak smile from Anya. This wasn't the time or place to get into fault or blame. It was so obviously an accident.

Xander arrived back laden with packets of chips and cans of drink whilst Buffy and Dawn were still hugging. He usually took it upon himself to feed the masses in this sort of situation, mainly because he hated just waiting with nothing else to do. Chips were a distraction for the mind, fingers and tongue. And the ring pulls on cans… they could be played with for hours. If necessary. Tara gave up her seat next to Anya and was offered a bag of chips in return. Xander settled himself down and gave Anya a can of lemonade. Anya just sat and stared at it blankly.

She was really taking it harder than pretty much anything else since he’d known her. She’d never had to feel that she’d hurt someone before.

Just when the tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife, Giles arrived. He was sitting in a wheelchair, and his eyes were bandaged, but he seemed fairly animated and in control of the orderly who was pushing him. Tara was the first to speak. “How do you feel? Is everything going to be alright?” She wanted to say ‘hi’ but it seemed… not the right thing. Everyone was going to ask questions, she’d wanted to be different and then listen to those – but, yes, she wanted to know too.

Giles nodded briefly and then stopped himself, the bobbing of his head aggravating an already painful headache, fiery itching and red-hot pokers that he seemed to have lodged in his eyes. “I have to stay overnight but they’ll take these things”, he indicated the bandages with his hand, “off in the morning.”

Anya flung herself on him, apologizing all the while. He was patient for a bit but eventually he gestured to someone, anyone, to free him. Finally Buffy gently unwrapped his assistant and sat her down on a chair again. He knew it must be difficult for her – getting hurt herself had been a shock after she was human, but hurting someone else – even by accident.

She probably thought that she had left that behind when she’d been a demon.

“Anya, I’ll be fine,” he said, unaware he was looking in the wrong direction. “I have to wear dark glasses for a while, and I’ve got drops for my eyes. Things will be blurry for a bit but all should be well.” He turned his head, trying to figure out who was there. “This may change our plans a little though. I won’t be able to drive for a while.”

“I can drive your car for you” Buffy offered, trying to lighten the mood. In hindsight that wasn’t likely to work. She entirely understood his reaction. She just wasn’t a person who was good at driving.

Giles shuddered. Unable to see his mind offered new images of Buffy, all apologetic and innocent, in front of his badly damaged car. “I’ll have to give it some thought, but thanks for the offer. I’ll think over the, er . . . logistics and then get back to you.” He was determined that Buffy would not get her hands on his car.

“Anya? Are you still there?” Giles turned his head around, trying to hear her.

“Yes.” Anya’s voice was just above a whisper. The news that she hadn’t blinded him was a relief, but she was still worried about her job.

“I need you to look after the store for the next few days.” He paused, knowing that he may be making one of those really big mistakes, but ploughed ahead manfully. “You can be manager. I know you won’t go overboard and do anything foolish, and you’re the only one who can do this for me just now.”

Willow’s comment, whatever it might have been, was firmly suppressed by Tara’s hand on her shoulder. Dawn put her hand over her mouth to cover the smile. Anya just looked stunned, then proud, and finally relieved.

“Manager. Sure.” She finally replied. “You just watch. Sales will be up and I’ll make sure all the money is looked after and you won’t even notice the increase in medical premiums with all the money I’ll make you.”

“Erm, yes, I’m sure you will.” Giles’ headache was beginning to make his temples throb. “They have a nice room ready for me and I think I need a rest just now.” That had been the entire point of the holiday – and he could still go, but the plans really needed two cars. Who was going to drive the other if Xander took one?

“You sleep well and rest up, don’t worry about anything.” Anya told him cheerfully. Something good was coming of this – she was going to make them so much money in just a few short days. Her head was already full of plans.

Xander touched his hand, hugging men was not really his thing - unless it involved sports. “I’ll help Anya with things.”

Willow and Tara came next and gave him hugs. “We can look after everything.” Willow promised.

“No you can’t, that’s my job, now that I’m manager.” Anya stated firmly.

Willow rolled her eyes, but Tara’s iron grip on her hand made her keep silent at that. Tara knew Anya well enough to know that she was just happy to be able to do something – especially something involving the money.

Dawn gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was surprised at that, but liked the paternal feeling it gave him. “I was so worried about you, so you rest up and get better soon. Promise?” She asked in a small voice, sort of pleading. He knew then that he’d been right to get them away.

“I promise,” he replied, realizing that this whole episode must have been a real shock to Dawn given her history with this hospital. “And I want you to look after things at home. Make sure your big sister behaves herself – you know what she’s like if she isn’t watched.”

“Make sure I behave myself?” Buffy interrupted, the relief audible in her voice. “Ok, I guess I’ll have to put the wild parties on hold for a change.”

“Wild parties huh? I see I shall have to be watching you more closely from now on.” Giles joked. “You’re supposed to be out patrolling.”

“Only after your eyes get better.” Buffy retorted, giving him a hug. “And these are tea parties… wild ones. In the meantime get well.”

“Good night all.” Giles was wheeled off. They’d promised him painkillers, which should help. It was they who’d have to worry this time.

“I’d better get back to the store and get organized for the morning.” Anya said as she gathered up the packets of unopened chips where Xander had left them. Waste not, want not was one of her mottos.

“An. It’s past ten. How about you come home to bed now and get an early start in the morning before we come back for Giles.” Xander took some of the chips from her as it looked like she was about to drop them.

Anya didn’t need to think about this long as the combination of Xander and bed usually managed to put other, more altruistic considerations out of her mind. Even the implication of shutting the shop during the day tomorrow wasn’t so bad. Besides, Xander didn’t really need her to help get Giles, and there was a sale to run, so why close at all? That thought cheered her no end.

“Can you drop us off home?” Buffy asked. “Its really too late to be looking for a cab or a bus.”

“No problem, replied Xander.” “The Xan-man express is now departing.”

Buffy put her arm around Dawn’s shoulders. “Come on, you have to start making sure I behave myself at those tea parties.” Dawn smiled, it had been a while since the sisters had shared a joke with each other.

Willow waited while Tara made sure all their rubbish was in the bins provided. Then the two of them followed behind the others, arm in arm.

Tomorrow would be another day. A better one. One for final preparations.

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

Willow was pushing the shopping cart down the supermarket aisle while Tara was busy looking at the list Willow had insisted that they made and selecting those things off the shelves. For someone who was so organized and grown up Willow really liked ‘driving’ the cart. But that wasn't what was amusing her. It was leaving Giles, Xander and Anya at home that had tickled both their funny bones. What they’d said to each other.

The looks on their faces.

Giles’s request to Xander to pack his clothes for him had been funny enough, but the idea of Anya going over to his apartment with her boyfriend had disturbed him. When she’d asked him why he’d explained that he didn’t want her going though his underwear. Her response had been priceless and cracked them all up – apart from Anya herself. 'But I go through Xander's all the time!'

They just couldn’t help coming back to that.

“Come on, snap out of it sweetie. Now what do you think sweetie? Sausages or mince?” Tara asked, knowing full well that Willow would probably want both no matter what the list said. Her sweetie liked variety in her meals. Even leftovers had to be dressed up and disguised as something else if they were going to be served up the next night.

“I was thinking that we could get some of both,” Willow replied as she rearranged the two-pound pack of flour and the bag of sugar they’d already put in the trolley. “Giles is getting the turkey for the actual Christmas Dinner, but I think we might want a bit of variety, you know? Especially being as its, you know… just the two of us some of the time.”

Tara smiled knowingly. “Sounds good to me.”

Willow didn’t ask whether her lover was talking about the food or the being alone together. Finally alone in a way that they’d never really been from more than a night, even last year when they were in the tent for Yule.

They were working their way systematically through a list of supplies for the week away in the mountains. There were large quantities of canned goods because they had no idea of what could be bought at the local post office-come-general store that was the only shop within 20 miles of the cabin.

“No, no tinned broccoli,” Willow said emphatically. “There must be a law against broccoli and I definitely didn’t put it on the list,” she told Tara who had found a tin.

Tara put the can back on the shelf. Willow disliked broccoli with a passion and wouldn’t eat it if she were starving. “They’re probably is, a law, somewhere, but we have to have some greens sweetie.”

Willow gestured to the shelves full of cans in front of them. “There’s peas, beans, corn, carrot, beetroot and asparagus. No need for that nasty stuff as well.”

“We should probably get some fresh vegetables as well.” Tara preferred fresh veggies to canned, but realized that the fresh things would have to be eaten first. With any luck they might be able to buy more when they got up there. And if not, well there was the reserve of the cans. She knew just how much you could do with canned food, if only you were willing to mix things up a little and create with ingredients that were never designed for creative purposes.

“Ok,” Willow agreed, pushing the trolley towards the fresh produce section. “And some fruit too. Dawn loves her fruit.” Willow was not entirely altruistic in her motives. She enjoyed a nice apple herself.

Tara picked up a bag of ‘Granny Smiths’ and put them in the cart. “Well, here are the apples, and the oranges.” Then something caught her eye. “Oooh, do you think we can have some nice, juicy, peaches?“

Willow put on her exaggerated pious expression. She might have splashed out on both mince and sausages, but they were staple foodstuffs. “We’ll see how expensive they are. We’re on a budget you know. Peach… all sweet and fuzzy… well it’s not so much a luxury as… well its essential. I admit it.” Then she and Tara burst into giggles. It took them a little while to regain their composure while they put some of the disputed peaches into a bag and into the cart. Neither of them was sure that the peaches would survive that night.

Juices… yum.

It was probably, Tara realized, a good job that she hadn’t suggested bananas. They moved on into the vegetable section.

“What do you think, this or these?” Willow was holding a large cucumber in one hand and a small bag of zucchini in the other.

“Oh, cucumber, definitely. You know that they go so much further than zucchini.” Tara said without looking up from the bag of potatoes she was loading into the trolley.

Willow just stared at her lover, forcing herself to be absolutely deadpan. The silence grew until Tara finally looked up and the light finally dawned.

She blushed.

Why worry about banana when there was cucumber?

“You know what I mean. You can have it in sandwiches and salads or even cook it if you want.”

“Suuure, that’s what you meant.” Willow smirked.

Tara countered with “Who’s all smut-girl today?”

Willow ignored the accusation and headed for the deli counter instead. So she was smut-girl… they’d already shared a few thoughts on just what they’d be doing when they were oh-so-alone in that cabin. She looked at the various cheeses, shuddering at the obviously fungal ones like the Stilton. She wasn’t into anything that purposefully looked like it should be thrown out. Then she spotted the small goods hanging over the counter. “We could take a couple of salamis,” she suggested.

“I thought you’d given up salami?” Tara replied with a perfectly straight face. If Willow wanted to play then she was more than happy to oblige.

It was Willow’s turn to blush. Tara picked up a mild, Hungarian, salami and slipped it into their trolley. “Never let it be said that I don’t do what I can to please you my love.”

Willow made a face and stuck her tongue out at her girlfriend, managing to catch the gaze of a surprised stock-boy who was filling up the potato bin. Tara smiled at him, embarrassed, then kissed Willow on the cheek. Nothing to be ashamed of at all. They were in love. Grabbing Willow by the arm she moved them into the next aisle where they were soon involved in a discussion on the varying virtues of breakfast cereals.

Somehow that never got around to the smut. Eventually, loaded down, they went back to check on Giles and his eyes, and to save him from the tender ministrations of Anya.

**********
Quo excogitare optimus propositum ex hominis et mus, saepe errare.
(The beist leid plans ‘o miece an mon aft gang aglay.)
(The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.)


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 3:08 am 
Great update!!!!:clap :clap :clap



I loved Anya being excited about losing profits and I felt really sorry for her when the accident with Giles happened.

Can't wait for the cabin. :whistle



Stef :p



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 3:43 am 
Ohhhhh I love this fic! It's amazing..........poor Giles though, I know how much eyes can hurt. I hope he's feeling better soon

----------------------


'I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad..it's depressing' - Tara



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 5:26 am 
Such a great story! And it keeps getting better.



Gotta love going to the store for supplies and
Quote:
"Who's all smut-girl today?"
:lol

Can't wait for the cabin :smug

BV



"In front of total strangers won't you kiss me, Flowers for no reason but you miss me - OOH, I wanna be in love"

Melissa Etheridge-Skin



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 5:34 am 
Excellent....Although, Giles' itchy stinging eyes were nasty, I should think that by the time Will & Tara get back his eyes will be the last thing on his mind....Having been subjected to TLC Anya style!



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 8:43 am 
**Coming out of my corner where I sat quietly, diligently reading A Sunnydale Carol **



I’m going to feedback it here if that’s okay. For those who haven’t read it, it’s well worth it!



The planning, the humor, the touching moments and the “suspense” all added to a great piece. I loved Willow’s master schedule and the coloring … LOL. Can’t have enough different colored pens. Tara’s preparations were so sweet and touching, especially when she was making the gifts and talking to the willow tree. I really liked Spike in this. His story to Dawn in the beginning and then his part at the end … preruined version. And the Harmettes? OMG, that was so funny. One by one, but the clog cracked me up. Then, all that suspense to lead to the collector … I had tears coming out of my eyes. That was hysterical. I have to also add Anya. She’s just so easy to pick on and you both did it really well. Thanks Katharyn and Kerry for a fun story there.



And now after that brief interruption, back to our regular scheduled programming. We now join The Holiday Fic 2002, currently in progress …



I’m worried about Buffy and I never thought I’d ever say that. Holidays are tough, especially the first ones after. But she seems too occupied about Dawn and not enough about herself (again, something I thought I’d ever say).



Poor Giles. First Anya nearly blinds him and then he’s tortured with her taking care of him. Scary thought.



I like the shopping trip … Why worry about banana when there was cucumber? Funny.



Great chapter! Thanks. :)



--celia





---------------------------------



"That was just rude. Now I forget what I was saying."

Edited by: tiredsoul at: 12/17/02 7:45:24 am


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 9:05 am 
I really enjoyed Giles and Anya's interaction in the shop. He's the same type of shopkeeper I expect I'd be, finding customers an annoyance as they kept touching and disarranging everything.



The shopping trip was quite fun too, though they have an impressive grocery if they can find Stilton in the U.S. I've only seen it in one store. Outside of cheddar, British cheeses are difficult to find here, which is a pain as I love Wensleydale.









--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 12:31 pm 
Katharyn is away tonight, this morning, whatever the time is there, (damn timezones) so I've been asked to reply to all the new feedback.



Deixs, Little M. Pudds I know - I feel sorry for Giles too. I know how painful that sort of thing can be - my brother did something similar to me when we were kids. But dont worry - he'll be just fine . . . if Anya doesnt get her claws into him



Barnabasvamp. There will be cabin fun . . . . promise.





tiredsoul Its so good to have you scampering through this fic. I'm also glad you enjoyed last years fic. This years will be just as much fun (I hope). You realize that one year is a fic - two years is a tradition. (Hands her a brand new set of handcuffs - and a spare key on a chain for around her neck.)



darkmagicwillow Sprung. You can see that the Stilton was Katharyn's bit . . . being english she knows about such things.



The next part should be posted in about 14 hours. Hope you enjoy it . . . . We're off to the mountains!!!! Wheeeeeee!!



PS: Katharyn, hun . . . . I am not twisted, warped perhaps but not twisted.



Secamus, frigimus, minutatim concidimus, sed patinae non detergemus!

(We slice, we dice, we fricassee...but we don't do dishes!)









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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 1:29 pm 


Ok, who wants to wager on how much decoration the newly appointed manager of the Magic Shop is going to put in ?? Heh... mayor mistake that as far as Giles is concerned, he won't recognize his store even when his eyes are fully functional again :) .



The shopping trip was much fun. Something fairly common described so nicely, I can soooo see Willow driving cart, heh..... In some ways she's still a kid :) .



I hope Giles will recover soon. Spray like that in your eyes hurts like hell, I just hope it wasn't very good/strong spray. You would be suprised how many people visit our local First Aid station with such an injury btw.



Though I generally don't like Anya much this really was an accident. Yeah, she should have been more carefull but blaming herself now wont do much good. Speaking of Anya... can't Willow drive Giles' car ? If she uses both hands to drive that should work.



Was this update big or is that just me being a slow reader ?? :)



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:02 pm 
Nice story!!!



i really like the way this is going, poor Giles getting that spray in his eyes. Glad he will be ok.



Can't wait for the trip, sounds like it will be good for both Buffy and Dawn to get away from things for a while.



and let's not forget Tara and Willow alone in a cabbin!!

Woohoo.



R.



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 2:56 pm 
HEHEHE





Quote:
“Oh, cucumber, definitely. You know that they go so much further than zucchini."




*GRINS*



I loved that!! LOL



Keep up the great work!



~NICKOLE~



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 11:39 pm 
As Kerry has already addressed some of your feedback I will sort of skim over those. Thanks to all of you though - I need feedback and you provide it. I waste away when I don't get it *S*



Deixs - Thanks, why are you waiting for the cabin? Two girls playing "Go Fish" is a boring fic... I should know... I wrote it.*S*



LittleM - Amazing? Already... wow thanks. Wait until you get to my bit... you will apprecaite Kerry all the more.



Barnabasvamp - I think that the "Smut Girl" line is mine. I forget. The Zucchini certainly belongs to Kerry. Yes she is a smutty girl. And someone else wanting to read about a game of cards... weird *S*



Pudds - TLC... *thinks* Oops.



Celia - You know my memory but... as I recall A Sunnydale Carol was a longer planned fic. We wanted plot, guess why? Because I hadn't been doing any in the long fic I came off and wanted to try it. This time, after Sidestep, I was a bit sick of plot! Besides we had too little time to get really involved.



The Harmettes... not sure where that came from but they were fun - and the clog... well I needed something pointed, heavy and wooden. The fic is a relic of better days... before we knew that there was anything to fear. Happy days.



Worried about Buffy? Hmm. Good. You were supposed to be. But there is nothing bad in this fic really. So don't worry too much. It just seemed... well we couldn't just "forget" you know?



I think the "banana" was mine... but the Zucchini line was Kerry. I keep stressing that.



Thanks



DMW - I think most small shopkeepers are like that - though they sort of have to be as they cannot afford losses. But on the other hand, he IS Giles. He would be like that if he was managing a lareg supermarket.*S*



Stilton... I didn't think that was mine, despite what Kerry said. Maybe it was though.



Thanks.



Grimlock - Decorations... well last year in A Sunnydale Carol was the highwater mark.



Kerry's shopping trip was nice, we so rarely get to see the girls just do life stuff. I wish now I'd had Willow racing around with the cart when I redrafted it*S*



And this update was fairly big, there are bigger ones though and smaller. I think the smallest is about 4000 words.



TarebearRS - Thanks for the kind words. Tara and Willow, playing cards in a cabin. It'll be dull but interesting*S*



Silverwingednemesis - As I keep saying that line is all Kerry's. Nothing to do with me. Thanks*S*



EDITED TO ADD: Kerry should be updating in a couple of hours or so... and there might be a smutty scene. Unless that is in the next one.



Katharyn



-------------------------




If I want a little pussy, I got my own to play with.
Chance in Chance.




------------------------

Edited by: Katharyn at: 12/17/02 11:12:43 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 12:11 am 
Katharyn and Kerry, I'm really enjoying this story, especially the characterizations which are spot on. Loved the Giles/Anya banter in the magic shop with Anya's exuberance over her "gold mind" idea of a "pre-christmas sale". And just :lol to Anya getting around the tinsel with the spray on snow, but poor Giles with the accidental spraying in his eyes, ouch :( .



I must say I feel for Buff/Dawn (as well as the gang) having to endure Christmas without Joyce. And with Buffy keeping busy, Dawn is sensing Buffy is isolating herself, which must make it doubly hard. Although, hopefully being away from their "tradition" (ie their trip to the cabins) some of their pain will lessen.



Looking forward to what Tara made Willow for Christmas, and the shopping excursion was just priceless (especially Tara saying, "Oh, cucumber, definitely. You know that they go so much further than zucchini.", :lol ).



Can't wait for the gang to arrive at their cabins, and feel for poor Giles if Anya decides to adminster her type of "care" at the cabin (ie something tells me Giles will make a quick recovery). And so looking forward to a little alone time for our girls, let the "good shivers" begin ;) !

Edited by: VampNo12  at: 12/18/02 12:23:03 am


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 Post subject: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 2:22 am 
Time to party again kittens, and this time there may be some T/W goodness to provide incentive.

Title: The Holiday Fic 2002
Authors: Katharyn and Forrister.
Disclaimer: Neither Katharyn or myself own these characters. Joss does. (Some people don’t appreciate things they own.)
Rating: R WARNING – Parts of this fic contains smut. Yes, real smut. (I’m not responsible – that’s my co-author’s department.) I’ve been told that R is an appropriate rating for the fic as a whole.
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of Season 5. Season 6 does not exist. (I’m still doing the whole refusal to live in Joss’s reality thing.) I guess you’d call this a post S5 alternate universe. I call it a much nicer place to be.
Summary: Holiday travel can be so much fun. “Are we there yet?”

Thanks: To L for lending me Katharyn for fics. To Katharyn who is responsible for about 99% of the writing in the next few chapters. To the Kittens, who provide both an audience, and an excuse to write.

Chapter 3

“You know, much as I have every faith in Tara as a driver,” Giles said for what had to be the tenth time that morning, “I can’t help but worry about… it.”
“You should worry,” Anya told him. It was now far too late to change his mind and allow Xander to drive his sporty little red car. Tara could have driven the station wagon up to the cabins though. Station wagon was definitely more Tara’s style.

While Xander was… a sporty little red car man. She’d been telling him that for months now. And it needed to be sportier than Giles’

Not that he would appreciate the ‘little’, if that whole car thing was really supposed to be some sort of metaphor.

Whoever had taken the smaller car got to be a couple and there was a picnic idea… they could leave early and have some alone time out in the romantic woods, in the romantic sunlight shining through romantic leaves. Anya sighed, romantically.

That had been a very good idea she’d had. And now it looked like it was going to be Tara and Willow who got to follow through on it. Which just wasn’t fair. If Xander was starting with one of those messy colds then she should have been allowed some alone time with him before they all had to huddle up in some cabin for a week.

“We’ve been through this Anya,” Giles explained to her again patiently. “You insisted that you wanted the Magic Box to be open for a couple of hours this morning.”

“Yes but-” He was making that sort of sense she hated. The sort of sense that never usually applied to vengeance demons – but all too often to humans. The sort of sense where he was right and she was wrong.

“Think of the money that we,” he paused, smiled to mollify her, “you, made this morning. We’ve been trying to dispose of Burke’s Para-astronomical Compendium for over a year – at the right price - and you managed to make the sale.” Compliments and money seemed to work the best in distracting Anya. And when you could combine the two, Giles was well aware that almost any hurdle could be overcome with his assistant.

Or as she would have it, Assistant Manager.

“Yes I think that I did do rather well there and it wasn’t being purchased for nefarious purposes,” she beamed. Money was important but she knew very well that the reasons of the customer were very important. Especially in Sunnydale. Xander had a tendency, through knowing the Slayer, to end up in danger when the wrong things were sold to the bad guys.

“Yes,” Giles replied as he lifted one of the cases into the back of the station-wagon, “lets forget my concern about my car and bring up the rather ancient history involving the sale of dangerous items. Again.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean you,” Anya reassured him. That was a human thing to do. Reassuring people. She had to reassure Xander all the time about all sorts of things, from how he looked in a suit to how big things needed to be. Then she thought about it. She was still annoyed. Reassurance wasn’t for being annoyed. “Actually, I did mean you.”

Giles glared an unfocused glare. There was likely to be a very perturbed hedge just behind Anya, getting the full, unvarnished glory of a glare like that.

“But you haven’t done it for a long time now,” she added, “and I’m sure that you won’t do it again.” Okay, so maybe, in the interests of the trip, she should be the one to make the extra effort. After all who else was going to?

The smell hit them first. “Essence of Newt combined with Jalala oil?” Giles wondered aloud.

“Oh no,” Anya replied. “That’s Xander and his stinky cold remedies.” She wondered about it though. Essence of Newt and Jalala oil might do the trick. It would decongest him and have the added benefit of transporting his nose to a timeline a few seconds behind their own – with the right incantation. That would mean that he would always be ready with a tissue to stop the mess that humans made when they were sick with colds.

And he’d have a detached nose. She liked his nose. It made his face and it rubbed…

“Xander has a cold?” Giles repeated. Wonderful. Not only were his eyes all swollen but now he was going to catch something from Xander – who with his history of weird and wonderful diseases… well who knew what he was actually suffering from? No, that was no way to think. They were going to have fun and he was going to get his diaries up to date without the pressure of making sales or helping to save the world. Only by going away was that going to happen… because every time there was a holiday in Sunnydale the world threatened to end.

Or there was an IRS audit to deal with.

He had a responsibility to get the diaries up to date – including the deadly threat of the IRS…

And Xander had a cold.

“Dello,” Xander said hearing his name being mentioned. He saw Giles take a step back but also give him an encouraging smile. Actually Giles gave the hedge behind them an encouraging smile based on where his eyes were looking, but the hedge wasn’t moving away from him and the cold that he carried. That was okay – Xander didn’t want what he’d got either. In fact he was kind of glad that he was only just starting with the cold. A several hour-long drive would have been no fun when he was really suffering.

Everyone should have been keeping well away from him. That was probably why they made remedies so stinky – to act as a warning to others to ‘stay away from the unclean one who will make you all ill.’ Anya was the only one who stuck close to him when he was ill, and she always seemed highly resistant to sickness of any kind. Sure she’d got injured a couple of times in the course of scoobyage, but she’d never been sick. Maybe that was some hangover from being a demon – but it was nice. Through colds, flu, the plague and syphilis she’d been right there… It must be love indeed. Occasionally with too many descriptions.

Not that he was feeling up to a romantic picnic. Yesterday he would have liked it to be him and Anya, but feeling as he did now it was much better that Tara and Willow had gone off in the smaller car together. Someone should have the benefit without the shivers. Plus his girlfriend was all happy at making a big sale this morning. Such happiness usually manifested itself as… fun. They’d have to see if he was up to it that evening.

Maybe, maybe not.

“I packed you a large box of man-size tissues,” Anya told him with a happy kiss. Tissues were important – there was the mess thing to be addressed and avoided.

The only thing that was a little off putting, Xander thought, while Anya was taking care of him when he was ill, was her utter delight in the symptoms he was suffering. She always wanted him to be better and she hated when his being sick got in the way of things she wanted to do, but as much as she loved him she also loved to see how things worked when people were sick – or didn’t work as the case may be.

It was an almost professional concern… as if she was job-shadowing.

It was as if, as a demon, she’d been inflicting illness and disease and she’d never had chance to stick around and really get to know what was going on with it. So whilst it was professional, it was also an almost childlike fascination. That was part of her appeal to him – whilst she was a beautiful woman, with a thousand years of existence behind her, she was also such an innocent about many things – and direct with it. Especially about what she wanted and liked. “Thanks honey,” he replied, “I think I might need them.”

“Are you alright to travel?” Giles asked, squinting to try and focus on him. It was a good job he could still see things close up, like his books and his diaries, or this was going to be a very, very dull holiday.

No not dull, Giles realized, filled with the compulsory ‘fun’ of youngsters. And undoubtedly their music as well. Yes, here came Dawn with the Ghetto Blaster into his rather limited range of focus. Oh joy. He must be really getting old if he was thinking of ‘youngsters’ that way but frankly the youngsters of today…

… Had a strength that he wouldn’t have believed possible. But with an appalling taste in music nevertheless.

“I’m good to go,” Xander replied. “At least right now.”

Dawn put her stereo in the back and turned to Xander, laid her hand on his brow knowing that she was the one female Anya would never consider that to be a threat from. Xander’s girlfriend still saw her as a little girl. Anya still called her ‘little girl’ and you know, hello… sixteen here. “You’re not hot or anything,” she told him. “We should go before you get so sick that Buffy has to drive.”

“I heard that!” Buffy called from the door as she pulled it closed behind her. “Perhaps you’d like to do the dishes all the time we’re up there? I think we’re having some food that will really stick to the plates. Plus there will be the roasting tray from Christmas Dinner… I know how you love those.”

“Me?” Dawn asked innocently. “I never… I just meant that you’ve been out slaying all night so you might want to have a sleep in the car.” She was quite pleased with that. It was both plausible and considerate.

Unfortunately her sister knew her way too well for that to work.

“Uh huh,” Buffy affirmed. “Well, get in little Miss Considerate and we’ll see about the dishes later. Wow,” she added as she watched Giles struggle to close the rear door of the station wagon. “Have you guys got enough stuff?”

“Like half of it isn’t yours Buff?” Xander asked. “You even brought your weapons bag on vacation.”

“Be prepared,” Buffy quoted. “Right Giles?”

His only immediate response was to grunt as forced the door closed.

“I still think that you should have stayed behind and kept the shop open,” Anya told her employer as they both made for the passenger seat. “We’re losing so much money and you’re all old and not needing fun like we do.”

“Thank you Anya, I do find myself,” he started to explain as he claimed the seat next to the driver, “in need of a vacation though. Money isn’t everything.”

“Well,” she started to concede, “not everything.” That was why she’d wanted to sit next to Xander.


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

“It’s been a while now baby,” Willow said to her lover. “Do I get a turn?”

“Sweetie, you know that Mr Giles entrusted her to me,” Tara replied playing along with Willow’s little joke. She knew that Willow didn’t really want to be driving anyway.

“‘Entrusted’ is a such very strong word,” Willow suggested in reply. There’d been very little about entrusting going on when Giles had made the decision yesterday evening. It had become obvious that there was no way that he could drive up here today, not after Anya had squirted him in the eyes with fake snow, but there was also no way that the others could either leave any earlier than they’d been planning to. Buffy had to patrol and still be able to get some rest and Anya wanted to open the shop up for a couple of hours. She also thought that part of it was that there was no way that Giles was going to allow Xander to drive this car, his very expensive car, up there.

For some reason he seemed to think that Xander might do something bad to it. Not bad like crashing or anything – just like getting it stolen, scratched or picking up a load of speeding tickets. Willow knew Xander better than that – unless Anya was with him. Then he might have been speeding just to cut the journey time. Either that or she would be distracting him… as she’d suggested not very discreetly when they’d been talking about it.

So instead they’d reached an unusual arrangement. Xander was driving the station wagon up to the cabins in company with Buffy, Dawn, Mr Giles and Anya. Originally he’d been lending that to them so that they could set off early and have their picnic. Instead they were in the much more impressive BMW because, Willow liked to think, Giles trusted Tara more than he did Xander when it came to being ‘responsible’ with it.

There was also the “there’s more room” argument and a question of getting the last of the supplies, but Willow always liked to think the best of what others thought about Tara. Usually because they were people’s true opinions. Tara impressed the heck out of most people.

Tara, sweetie that she was, admitted to dismay and not being able to understand his decision – Willow was quietly happy with it. And for many reasons. First that Giles recognized just how trustworthy Tara was with things like that, second that they’d still got to leave early and have their extended picnic lunch en route to the cabins and third that they had this lovely car to go up there in. And the leather. Yum. Willow had found, with prolonged exposure, that she liked leather seats – even if she didn’t think that Giles would be very impressed by some of the ideas and activities she had planned for them.

He wouldn’t even let Dawn bring a drink into this car – frolicking was very definitely a no-no. And she knew that Tara wasn’t likely to go along with it for that very reason. Sometimes she was too responsible. Tara always made up for that though by being so damn wonderful.

Tara didn’t quite understand Mr Giles’ decision either – after years, reportedly, of having a car that had been a joke, which even she’d laughed at, he’d got himself a car that could have made him a babe magnet. Dawn’s term and certainly not hers, but if he got the ‘babe’ into there then he’d probably have asked her to make sure that she didn’t have anything stuck to her shoe.

There were people in the world, Tara knew, that were just not meant to have cars like this – she counted herself as one of them, and Mr Giles was probably another. They were meant to have the Citroens of this world. The old Citroens. Preferably with many previous owners but still reliable. Still, having driven it, she could see exactly what he meant about being seduced by it.

It was a smooth ride, steering was like caressing Willow. Sometimes though she liked her ride to be a little rougher… more involved. Demanding.

“He entrusted her to me,” Tara retorted. Willow, she knew was just a tiny but miffed that Mr Giles hadn’t offered to let her drive. But then the last time she had been in the passenger seat…

“Hmm. If you loved me-” Willow started to say playfully, but Tara interrupted her.

“Don’t even try that sweetie, you know that I love you more than the world, but that isn’t playing fair.” Tara knew that they were both still joking.

Willow had been playing but she had to admit to herself that she did still actually covet the driver’s position. If Tara had pulled over then and offered to let them trade places then she would have done so in a second. It must have been her competitive nature – and the part of her that craved approval from Mr Giles. If they switched and she could tell him that she’d driven up there and the car was fine anyway then that would get his approval.

Still, she thought, it was Tara, her girlfriend that had been entrusted with the task and the car – and most definitely not Xander’s girlfriend. Every time that she or Tara could put one over on Anya she just had to appreciate it – even if Tara would never ever actually try to do that. And when Anya had suggested that she be allowed to drive it as Giles’ Assistant Manager, instead of Xander, Willow had loved the heck out of the snort of laughter that the owner of the Magic Box had let out. A snort that had been followed by a quickly stifled, full belly laugh.

Stifled because Anya’s glare, when she’d been a demon, probably would have turned them all to stone. It was still pretty scary now – but Willow knew that she could be scary too. She could be scary, right? Maybe not as scary as Anya. But Giles had kind of gotten used to his employee and that was what Anya was.

Just an employee.

Whilst she and Tara were volunteers… friends and volunteers. They had the moral high ground – if not the money – from helping him out.

Willow knew that he’d been laughing as much at the Assistant Manager description as he had been at the idea of letting Anya drive this car again. He knew very well, from the insurance company, just what had happened the last time that Anya had driven this car. Okay, Willow had been there too, which might have mitigated against her as well, and there had been troll involvement. And okay, so Anya had taken actual driving lessons since then, but she just loved it when Anya had her nose put out of joint.

It was fun. More so because now Anya couldn’t have her romantic picnic – copied of course from Tara’s idea. Well, less copied and more probably sort of suggested by Tara for Xander and Anya to enjoy if they were the ones who went up first. Tara, for some bizarre reason that Willow had never figured out, actually liked Anya. And Anya liked Tara – in her own way.

Willow just didn’t get that sort of perversity. It was all against all laws of nature. Tara was so beautiful, kind, considerate and special… and Anya was… Anya.

“I’m sorry,” Willow said to her lover. And she was, she knew that Tara would never have fallen for that. Still there was something else that she had to offer. “What if…”

“Don’t say it Willow,” Tara told her, knowing that tone of voice.

“What?”

“Whatever it is that you’re going to offer me – this, Mr Giles’s trust is more important than playing out games,” Tara replied. She knew the tone because it was the one in which Willow tended to promote some of their more fun filled and outrageous times. Their time together, alone. Sometimes Willow would pretend to be ‘hurt’ by a lack of attention. Sometimes she would make little bargains. Sometimes she would offer Tara things and sometimes she would ask for them. Pretty much though that tended to get to involve smoochies and much more.

It was that sort of tone and she knew it well. Her heart raced every time that Willow brought it into play.

For her part Willow wasn’t absolutely convinced that Tara was as dead set against being persuaded as she might have been otherwise. Now she just had to find the right key. And she knew that the key was often hidden very close to her skin.

Very close.

So close that most times she had to get right down to bare, naked skin just to have a chance of finding it at all.

“More important than smoochies?” Willow asked playfully.

Tara fixed her eyes on the road. Oh look, there was a tree. They were into trees. More trees. “More important than smoochies.” It was a matter of trust.

“More important than…” Willow reached over and ran her hand up the inside of Tara’s thigh – not quite high enough to make her jump too much – but being very obvious.

Tara sometimes had the impression that Willow only did this to see if she could make herself irresistible – rather than for what she thought she might get out of in terms of sensual play. “M-More important than that.” She knew that she was going to get that anyway. They’d already got the cabin for two, out on their own and there was no way that either of them was going to waste that opportunity to be alone. Totally alone and free… free to be… themselves. Without interruption, without being overheard, or burst in on.

And no monsters either.

Tara knew that her thigh was going to get stroked. She didn’t need to make deals.

“Maybe…” Willow said. She knew what was going to do the trick. She knew what she could offer… and she knew that it would work too. If Tara’s dream had been one that she wanted to follow through on.

Uh-oh, Tara could tell from the way that Willow had said ‘maybe,’ that her lover thought she’d got something. And the hand was still on her thigh. She dropped a little speed, just in case Willow distracted her too much. “Maybe?” she asked.

“Maybe… you know your dream? The reason that we decided to have a picnic?” Willow said slowly and seductively.

Ohhhh. That dream. That dream? Now? Over lunch? That was playing dirty… Of course that was kind of the point. Now she couldn’t even be sure if what Willow was suggesting was a bargain for being able to do a little driving or actually entirely the point. Willow liked to play her games. She wanted to be firm. She wanted to say no. But it was a good, good dream.

A very good dream that had been prompted by the romantic picnic idea she and Anya had thought about for their respective partners.

“Gah.”

That was all that she managed. ‘Gah.’

Willow’s hand left her thigh and rose to her ear instead. Tara was deliberately driving very carefully now. First all of all she didn’t want to crash and second she really, really didn’t want to miss the picnic site that they’d picked out on the map last night and which they’d seen a sign for a little way back. Surely no one would be out there. Not today – not so close to the holidays. It was warm enough here though… The top was down and everything, a nice sunny day. The Goddess knew that they wouldn’t want to do anything when it was chilly. Until they went up into the mountains they should be fine… and oh she wanted to do what Willow was suggesting.

If only once in her life she wanted to try that.

“Gah.”

Willow smiled, triumphant. The way that she was feeling right then she didn’t much care if she didn’t get to drive the car – she just wanted to make another one of Tara’s dream come true – true with a little extra maybe. She was pretty sure that the extra wasn't actually in Tara’s dream, but it might be after this afternoon. She’d… well she’d been feeling naughty even when she was packing the picnic basket for them. The question became should she tell Tara about that or just keep it a secret?

There was always the chance that her baby wouldn’t want to… and that would be a bad thing to find out in the middle of… passion. On the other hand a surprise wasn't a surprise if it wasn't surprising.

Tara spotted the sign that indicated that the turn off for the picnic sight was nearby but as Willow caressed her ear she almost missed it. That could have been dangerous, she thought even as she made a fairly sharp swerve to turn into it. There would have to be a strict no touching rule introduced.

But after they set off again. Not now.

Now she wanted to be touched.

She pulled up quickly, unconcerned by the fact that the site was actually visible from the road. She’d already figured that out… she could be as practical as Willow. She parked in front of the picnic tables and hit the button that raised the top back up over their heads on the convertible. The car would hide them except from certain angles and by the time anyone driving by thought to look round they’d already be round the bed and have lost sight.

That would do nicely if they were really going to do this.

Willow’s hand was on her loves own hand even as she lifted the parking break into place. Their lips were locked together even before the engine had time to die and tongues were in all the right places. Well okay not all the right places – yet – but there was promise there of things to come in the not very distant future.

“You ready to eat?” Tara finally panted.

“Oh heck yeah,” Willow told her, slipping a hand under her blouse and up until she found what she was looking for.

“That’s not what I meant,” Tara said sternly. “I’m hungry, I mean really hungry.”

“Is your tummy all rumbly?” Willow asked her moving her hand, reluctantly, downwards to that part of Tara’s torso.

Tara waited just to make sure that Willow didn’t try to go any lower, then answered her love. “It has been rumbly, it’s time to fill it up.”

Fill it up huh? Well there was always her surprise for that Willow thought as they parted and got out of the car. It was kind of a joke really, but if… no. It was just a joke. Above their heads the leaves shifted in the breeze and she could see the picnic table was dappled with sunlight as the trees blew in the wind.

Still that just made it pleasantly warm, it wouldn’t get too sweaty… unless they got more active than Tara had suggested in her dream – but that, of course, was all part of the surprise.

------------------------

It was a picnic. What else was it supposed to be? Well Tara knew what her dream had been about and she knew what Willow had meant in the car and she knew what they both wanted… but they were just sitting there eating the picnic. Chips, dips, pieces of carrot, chunks of bread. They had to eat hearty because they really didn’t know when they’d be able to eat again… it could take a long while to get to the cabins. There was even going to be a piece of chocolate cake to round it all off.

When there was a surprise on a picnic it was always a piece of chocolate cake – it was like the unwritten rule of picnicking. So much so that it really wasn't a surprise anymore… besides she was pretty sure that this surprise chocolate cake, which she hadn’t seen yet, was going to be involved in the after-picnic fun. That was the way that Willow was talking with her ‘What would it be liked to smear…?’ musings.

Willow, for her part, knew that she’d hidden another, more humorous, surprise away nicely. Tara had no idea what it was and she was certainly thinking chocolate cake. Whilst smearing the chocolate cream on Tara’s nipple and licking it off had more than a little appeal to her that wasn’t quite what Willow had in mind. There was chocolate cake – but that wasn’t the surprise. She wanted the surprise to be just that. She didn’t so much want to carry out what she was going to suggest… she just wanted to see the look in Tara’s eyes.

Maybe she’d try both… surprise Tara with the surprise that wasn't a surprise and then again with the surprise that was. Then she’d really be surprised. Probably.

“Ready for afters?” Willow asked with a smoldering look in her eyes. She was going to play this to the hilt and she knew that Tara, as much as she, was more than ready for afters. The way that she’d shifted on the bench, the way that they’d got closer and closer to each other. The way that hands had wrung in anticipation of been put to better use than just eating. They’d both been doing it and they both wanted afters… Afters was, after all, why they were here.

Afters were why they’d set off early, before anyone else.

Afters were why they wanted a picnic, alone, on the way to a place where picnics were pretty much all that they were going to have for the next few days – if the weather held anyway, and if it didn’t it would just be like an indoor picnic.

“Always ready for you,” Tara breathed as if there was anyone bar a scampering squirrel who could have overheard her. She was ready to play along. If Willow wanted to get chocolaty then that was… that was something that she could deal with and appreciate. There was a small stream just down the hill where they could get washed up after if they still felt playful – even though she had a more practical solution to hand.

Willow smiled.

Her sweetie, thought Tara, was smug and thought that she didn’t know. But she knew. She was kind of looking forward to it. Chocolate. Maybe… she should just say so. “I’ve been wondering about your surprise,” she said. “Well actually I kind of know what it is…” Tara admitted. “So I brought these.”

Tara held up the baby wipes, no doubt thinking that they would need to clean up. Well if chocolate cake was a factor then that might be the case. Willow wasn’t so sure about going with both. It might be a little much. They could save the cake for later… and the chocolate cream that topped it. Later when there would be somewhere to wash properly, when it came to smearing Willow was pretty sure that licking and sucking wouldn’t be quite enough to get rid of all the lingering stickiness.

And if you added chocolate to that… She grinned and Tara’s eyes asked the question. What?

“Just thinking of when to give you-”

“What I need?” Tara interrupted and in one movement she’d turned on the bench, her hands seeking out Willow’s cheeks. Stroking them, playing with her lover’s soft earlobes.

“Give you-” Willow tried to continue but was distracted again.

“What I want?” Tara suggested, dropping her hands to Willow’s chest instead.

“Your surprise,” Willow finally finished as she savored Tara’s caresses. “But what you want and what you need will do me for now.”

“Even if that’s you?” Tara asked her with a smile.

“Especially if it’s me.” She’d get to the other thing later… after that dream had been realized. Both of them, in the open… just a hint of danger. She wasn’t sure where her baby dreamed this stuff up but following those dreams had never failed to be fun in the past.

And she’d get her revenge, with the surprise package. She’d see the look in Tara’s eyes. She was guessing at total shock.

*************
Giles sighed. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. They seemed to delight in making him sigh and took it in turns to do so. It was what passed for entertainment on the long journey. Between Buffy planning the activities of the next few days down to the smallest detail, seeming to think that in Willow’s absence there was a job to be done there, and the persistent “are we there yet?” that was every parents nightmare he was of the opinion that sighs were actually a demonstration of remarkable control.

Of course the question was the single worst thing that anyone could ask whilst on a car journey. It was the stuff of legend – though not perhaps in supernatural terms. It was possible that she really didn’t know what she was saying, but he had to agree with Willow that sometimes Anya liked to play the ‘innocent’ when her purposes were somewhat less than innocent. Xander, he was sure, was trying to look as if he was solely concentrating on the road. Anya, though, was sulking. She was sulking about not being able to sit next to Xander, but since her passing comments about ‘Oral Highway’ he’d made a decision to prevent her from going anywhere near that route and had taken the passenger seat as his own. The fact that he’d forced her to shut the shop for the ‘most profitable part of the holidays’ and then refused to let Xander, or her, drive his car and have their romantic picnic only added to her bad mood.

When Willow had been the one to get that romantic picnic instead… there had been what the Americans called a ‘minimum safe distance’ involved. And unfortunately, all cooped up in the same car, he was well inside that zone. All of that on top of the lingering bitterness about Tara and Willow getting the smaller cabin and being able to be alone together.

Alone together was a much better description than Anya had used.

Anyway it was his shiny, red, convertible, expensive car that had got out of his sight. Still better Tara as a driver than anyone else he knew. Certainly a better option than Buffy who, all things considered, was being very patient with Anya who was sat next to her in the back. Buffy was not the finest driver the school program had ever produced. He had to actually admit that he was still a little worried about her – and Dawn.

It was the first Christmas since the death of their mother and after last year’s had been filled with relief that Joyce had appeared to have got over her illness. They’d made a special effort last year and now they were making another one – this one conspicuously not in Sunnydale at all.

New place, new surroundings and hopefully some peace and quiet for anyone who wanted it. Not that Buffy appeared to be about to allow that to happen. If he was worried about Dawn and the effect of a Holiday season without her mother then Buffy seemed frantic in her attempts to plan things for them to do. Distractions no doubt, and perhaps not just for Dawn.

Willow would have been proud of her friend.

“So Dawn, tomorrow morning you, me and Xander will be going for a nature hike,” Buffy said brightly to her sister, simultaneously ticking it off on her list. Nature Hikes were very green – a renewable resource. Out where they would be staying there would be like three hundred and sixty degrees of nature all around them. They could go on a nature hike whenever there was a lull in the schedule. “Since Anya refuses to go with us.”

She saw Xander sigh, the splutter as a tickle aggravated his throat again.

“I’m not sure you realise what is out there in those woods,” Anya told her. “I do. I’ve been out in them before. Twelve-fifty-eight there was a Native American woman who wanted a pox on her lover.” Happy days. “Of course she didn’t know that it was 1258. She was quite happy not knowing about the birth of someone she’d never heard of and how long ago that had been.”

Buffy gave her a look that said ‘You are not going to spoil Dawn’s Holiday by sulking.’

Anya sighed. “I’m just saying that you should be careful – especially when Xander is with you.”

“I’m not sure I’ll make it out of bed,” Xander murmured to no one at all. No one was listening.

“She is the Slayer,” Giles noted. “I’m sure that she can deal with…” He noticed Buffy waiting for him to finish. “Sorry.”

“Besides, why isn’t Giles going on this walk?” Anya asked quickly.

“Ah, ah… I have my diaries to write up. Invaluable lore that should be recorded. I’ve been a little lax in the past-” he frowned as Anya interrupted him.

“Six years?”

“Yes exactly. There has been one crisis after another you know,” he reminded her. “We were saving the world long before you required us to do it again.”

“Buffy,” Anya told him without missing a beat, “was saving the world – sometimes Xander too – but you were the one who should have been keeping the diaries up to date. That was really you’re job wasn't it?”

“Yes,” Giles admitted sarcastically, “I really was just there to write the diaries. Never mind the countless times that I-”

“Got shot with your own crossbow!” Xander added helpfully.

“Thank you, but-”

“You got knocked unconscious a lot,” Dawn added for him, pleased to contribute.

He turned to look at her, and the look on his face must have been what made her lose her helpful smile. “No-”

“You really, really do,” Buffy told him. She reached and patted his shoulder.

“You do,” Xander confirmed.

“All right, yes I have a tendency to get knocked out but that is only because-” Giles tried to explain.

“You’re in the thick of the action,” Buffy noted deciding that they really should show a little appreciation.

“A vital part of the team,” Xander added.

“You should have been keeping the diaries up to date,” Anya insisted, talking to herself and the air.

“Hard Core,” Dawn said making up for her observation. But he just looked at her for a moment as if she was very, very strange. “Not in a porno way or anything like that.”

Everyone, for a few more moments, considered what that denial had actually suggested. Then Giles turned back to the road and took off his glasses, rubbing them with his handkerchief. It didn’t help his eyesight at all. He’d just have to trust Xander.

Oh.

“So Buffy,” Xander chirped up, “there’s no G-Man but what about Tara and Willow? Why aren’t they on the nature hike schedule?” It seemed to be a good distraction from his girlfriend’s sulking and from Giles’ feelings of uselessness. And from the cold that he could feel crawling around in his skull, blocking things up.

“Well I thought they might want to do… you know,” Buffy said.

“Have sex,” Anya chimed up. “What if me and Xander want to-”

“They might want to do the couple thing,” Buffy said quickly. “They don’t get to do that too much, there’s always someone else in the house – you and Xander live with each other already,” she explained patiently but she just knew that there was no right and final answer to this.

“Like I said… having sex,” Anya insisted. When she was right she was right.

“There’s more to being a couple than just having sex,” Dawn told her. The look on Anya’s face suggested that, whilst Dawn knew that she knew it, the idea of that applying to other people was quite possibly beyond her. But then there was more than just Anya looking at her. Buffy in particular had an inquiring look on her face. It said ‘Dawn, where did you pick up that titbit of information? There is a right answer here. Find it little sister.’

“So I hear,” she added with a weak smile.

“Yes, quite” Giles contributed. In general he preferred to skip right over any talk about Anya and Xander’s personal life but he had a feeling that this somehow wasn't the end of the topic for this week.

“Tara and Willow,” Buffy said firmly, but making a mental inscription in stone to have a long word with Dawn later, “can come with us, if they want to. The rest of us are going.”

“Except Giles,” Xander added.

“And me,” the ex-vengeance demon was determined not to be out in those woods more than she had to be. Not as a mortal. There were… various types of rabbit like creatures. And bunnies weren’t renowned for being able to break into cabins though she couldn’t have absolute faith in that. The door would stay locked when she was alone.

“Except,” Buffy admitted, “Giles and Anya.” She was beginning to understand now why she’d never wanted to be the planner before – because usually she’d have been the one trying to escape from group activity. This time it was useful to her.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Xander told them feeling a little less optimistic about the progression of his cold. But then there was the food issue. “Oooh picnic site.” There was the sign.

“Is that the picnic site?” Dawn asked.

“You’re looking forward to being out without me?” Anya asked sharply and Xander cringed. How did he keep falling into these holes? Then again life with Anya wouldn’t be the same if he weren’t digging himself out of trouble from time to time.

“Yes it is the picnic site and I meant that I was… looking forwards to lunch.” That should work, everyone knew that he loved food – so why wouldn’t have been looking forward to lunch and seeing his buds Willow and Tara? Why would he want to avoid Anya when she was still in a stinking foul mood like this? “That’s all.”

No other reason at all. None that he could think of. No sir.

“Yes,” Giles said, “I’m quite hungry too.”

Sometimes Xander could kiss the magic-shop owner. Not in a gay way of course and actually it was just this once but any man who would distract Anya from pursuing any of her more mundane forms of vengeance was okay in his book.

“There’s their car,” Dawn confirmed after they’d driven in from the sign towards the actual turn-off. It was bright red, who could miss that?

“What do you mean ‘there’s their car?’ That’s my car.’” He focused on the rear end of the car as they started to slow down. Not major damage visible from this distance and angle. “Looks alright though.”

“Don’t worry Giles,” Buffy chided him, “I am sure that Tara is taking absolutely wonderful care of your car. Just as good as you would do yourself.” That was Tara all over… she cared so much that sometimes wondered how she ever found so much to give.

“Not as good as I would,” Anya said to no-one in particular and wasn’t surprised when no-one in particular answered her. They were like that – they often ignored her, which was just rude. They kept telling her about what was rude and then they ignored her.

Giles just sighed. Again.

“They could have sold it to pay off Spike’s kitten debt,” Anya continued. Nothing would have surprised her about Willow. “Or she could have magicked it away like she did the cash register and the money and everyone would have just gone ‘Oooh Willow, what a nice trick.’ Because she’s you’re favourite isn’t she? She’d everyone’s favourite – except Xander’s of course. But if I’d scratched your car… oh no.”

Giles turned around and looked at her. It was long past time for sighing. “Anya, please…” She looked at him. “Do be quiet.”

“It should have been me and Xander who got to take it up there, then you could have driven this… thing,” Anya remarked. “But noooo you had to go and get all blinded with fake snow,” she accused him. When he looked her in the eye though she had to relent a little – it had been her finger on the can, so to speak. “Well, anyway what do you want a car that’s better for Xander’s for anyway? You have no girlfriend. You have no friends.”

“Hey!” Xander called out. There were limits, and Anya was the one that had actually caused the little mishap with that fake snow. Best, in his experience, to shut up about the things you did wrong. Either that or beg for a while.

Anya never, ever, begged though. And he really didn’t have the energy. Focusing on the road now.

“Yes… Hey!” Giles added. But it was just Anya in a bad mood as well as tactless. He’d suffered that often enough before. Never in such confined quarters for so long though. That was new and… interesting.

“It’s too cramped in here,” Anya added as she deliberately squirmed.

Giles wasn’t about to argue with that.

“I sort of like it, it’s cozy,” Dawn declared trying to keep the peace just a little longer. If they could just get to the food. Food was a great healer – and Tara and Willow would be with them too.

“Guys,” Buffy knew that it was time to take charge. “Were here, lets just try and be nice and not spoil Tara and Willow’s day. Okay?”

There were nods. “Okay Anya?” she felt compelled to ask. Just to be certain.

“What?!” Anya retorted. Then hissed, “Oh no can’t trust the ex-demon to behave, anyone would think that…” She had to stop speaking though so that she could use more of her brain to make sure that she was not, in fact seeing things. Buffy seemed to be in the same predicament.

Buffy looked out of the window and… The first thing she did was slap her hand over Dawn’s eyes which, of course, just made her sister squirm and try to get free. “Dawn. Keep your eyes closed.”

“Has someone pranged my car?” Giles asked, fixated on checking it as they drove up. If checking with his bad eyes meant crawling on his hands and knees then that was what he’d do.

“Like I can see anyway with you’re hands over my eyes, get off!” Dawn protested as she tried to break free. Buffy mustn’t have been using her Slayer strength this time - which was never fair in their fights.

“Is it a scratch?” Giles asked, searching almost blindly for what had alarmed them.

“Is there a funny thing?” Xander had to ask, sniffing, and then found Anya’s hands on each side of his face from behind. “Ahh hun? Driving here.”

“So drive. Eyes on the road, eyes on the road,” Anya insisted.

“My eyes are on the road,” then he got it. There was something… there was something that was Tara and Willow going on. That must be it. He tried to turn his head but Anya was quite firm.

“What are Tara and Willow doing?” Dawn asked as she struggled.

Everyone just stopped speaking or struggling. That was a very pertinent question. Insightful. And it was important to foster a culture of curiosity in someone Dawn’s age.

Buffy paused. What to say? What to say? “Eating,” she said weakly. “Just eating I think.”

“Is there a dent? There better not be a dent.”

“Are you even on this planet?” Anya asked her employer. Could anyone really be that self-obsessed? “Tara and Willow are out there-”

“Eating,” Buffy said firmly. “Xander drive on.”

Giles finally understood that no one was looking at his car. No one who could see or had the freedom to turn their head at all. He was aware of Anya controlling Xander’s direction of gaze. He might have been old but he knew when not to turn his own head at all – if there was even the slightest chance that his eyes would work for him now then they really shouldn’t be.

Privacy was a thing he treasured too.

“Drive on?” Xander asked. This was what he thought it was then… Yes. Drive on.

Dawn eventually got free of Buffy and it was too late for her sister to do anything about what she saw, even as Xander started to pull away again. “Is that a cucumber?” she asked.

Another very pertinent question.

Buffy was forced to turn her head to check and… “I think so,” she said. She really wasn't up to thinking of a possible answer that wouldn’t be well… worse to try and explain.

They pulled out onto the highway again and Giles was quite proud of the fact that he’d managed, in the circumstances, to restrain himself from checking the side of the car – which would have meant turning his head and taking the chance of a miracle recovery occurring.

He didn’t want to recover for that. Tara and Willow deserved their privacy.

“A cucumber,” Dawn mused, “that’s so…” She trailed off as everyone, including briefly the freed Xander, turned to look at her. Oops. Willow had just said Tara really liked a piece of cucumber when they’d arrived home with the shopping yesterday evening, she’d not mentioned what her surprise was… “I have no idea what that is. Honest.” They turned away from her again. Had anyone actually bought that? Well Mr Giles was old… he might not know. He was blind too. He might have believed in her innocence.

“It’s a vegetable from the gourd family,” Anya told them and everyone seemed to relax. That was good. She could be the clever girl in the group, just like Willow. And it was distracting – it would keep Xander’s mind off Willow and what Willow was doing. “Cucumis Sativis,” she revealed and she could tell that they were impressed. “Some ancient cultures used them just like they seemed about to, to-”

Giles interrupted her. Again. There was a time when… “I think that discretion is the better part of the next picnic area.”

“Well I vote yes,” Buffy added.

“Yay for Tara and Willow,” Dawn said then decided, from the looks, that discretion was also the better part of pretending you had no idea what was going on. Though why she had to be the innocent one was beyond her.

Xander strained his neck, trying to catch some glimpse but the trees were in the way. Damn… His one close encounter with… He sneezed and Giles passed him a tissue. “Danks.”

“The next picnic area, yes. Where there are no lesbians having playful sex,” Anya commented. She didn’t want Xander exposed to that sort of thing. Not at all. Then she turned to Dawn, “and what do you mean ‘Yay for Tara and Willow’?”

Everyone looked at her, except Xander who was back with his eyes on the road, but still waiting for her to explain. “Nothing?”

“Because if its just because they were having fun in the open air or about to with large vegetables then we’ve-”

“Anya!”

“Why does everyone shout my name like that?”

---------------------

“Someone just went past,” Willow breathed in Tara’s ear as her caresses went on and on and… in.

“Mmmn” was the only thing that Tara could say in reply.

“I had this in my hand…” she reached around and showed Tara the cucumber.

Tara’s eyes widened. “Why? Mmmmn.”

“Fun… I thought later… you might… you might like to think about might… me… later. You know? Just thinking.” Very much just thinking because along with the surprise that she’d been looking for was the slightest edge of disapproval.

“I’ll think, then you know what I would say sweetie… but the only thing you’re doing right now,” Tara said with a laugh, “Is eating me.”

Willow put the vegetable back in the basket and slipped back between her lover’s legs and she rested, the sun on her back, over the picnic table. Love. Passion. Desire.

Tongues and fingers.

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

(To be continued)


In catillo est, cibus esse debet.
(It’s on a plate, it must be food.)


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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 2:38 am 
:jaw

On a picnic table?????:drool

And the Scoobies watching???:smash

I wonder what the surprise is.... *smirks*



Stef :p



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 Post subject: Re: Katharyn and Forrister's Holiday Fic 2002
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 2:45 am 
Not watching, very definitely not watching hence the driving away. *S* I have no interest in them being "watched" though the comedy comes from being noticed...



Kerry posted rather more here than I thought she would... took me by surprise.



Katharyn





-------------------------




If I want a little pussy, I got my own to play with.
Chance in Chance.




------------------------

Edited by: Katharyn at: 12/18/02 1:47:27 am


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