Title: First Christmas
Author: Michi
Feedback address: michi6877@yahoo.com
Date in Calendar: 19 December 2004
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: Faith/Tara
Rating: PG13
Summary: Faith and Tara spend Christmas together.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC04

Disclaimer: Not mine, if they were life would be more interesting.

Note: This story goes to my favorite beta and good friend AbyKitten, this one is just for you babe.  Thank you for doin' a wonderful job.  This story is AU, where Tara was already in Sunnydale when Faith showed on the scene.

First Christmas  


“Damn it!  I gotta get you workin' for the night,” Faith said beating on the old TV.  “You're not goin' ta screw my Christmas Eve up.  Not if I can help it.”  She hit it a couple of more times, before looking over her shoulder at the brightly wrapped box sitting in the middle of her bed.  *At least I know I got this part right.  She's gonna love what I got her.* Turning back to the pain in the ass TV, she was interrupted by a knock on her door.  

“Yeah?”  From the tingles on the back of her neck she knew it was Buffy.  *Great!  The fuckin' TV refuses to work, she's gonna be here in a few to finalize for Christmas Eve and B just has to show up.  She's probably here to do the pity invite to Christmas dinner.  Shit, what next another big bad, too?* Faith sighed turning to the door, as Buffy entered she turned back to the TV, fiddling with the knobs.  

“Hey. What's up?” Faith asked Buffy, who still stood by the door, before muttering to herself Work, damn it!”  

“Hey.” The blonde replied. Feeling decidedly uncomfortable, she decided to stay by the door.  

Giving up on her project, Faith shut the TV off and stood to face Buffy. “So, what's going on, B? Scary monsters?” she asked, giving Buffy her patented 'too cool to care' look.  

“No.” Buffy turned her head in the direction of the bed, trying hard to avoid eye contact with the other Slayer. Spying the present on the bed she wondered to herself who it was for, buying presents wasn't a very 'Faith' thing to do, so it made her curious. Moving over to stand at the end of the bed, giving herself some time to get up the nerve to ask Faith what she had came her for, Buffy cleared her throat, “We're having Christmas Eve dinner at my house, and I thought that if you didn't have any plans…”  

Faith internally rolled her eyes - *Damn, I was right, I just knew she came here to invite me to her place. God, I hate holidays. At least I don't have to lie to her, this time. Now, if I can get rid of her quickly I can finish gettin' my room ready* - outwardly she smirked knowingly at the blonde, crossing her arms smugly. “Your mom sent you down, huh?”  

“No,” Buffy replied a little too hastily.  

“Well, thanks, but I got plans.”  *Does she think I'm stupid or somethin'?* The taller girl looked the blonde over arrogantly.  “I gotta friend comin' over, we're gonna have a blast.”  

Buffy took in the room, noting how much neater it was compared to how it usually was.  She could tell that Faith was trying for holiday spirit with the Christmas lights and the bedraggled little Christmas tree on the table in the corner of the room.  *I guess that explains the present.  And who is this friend?  She's never mentioned this person before.  Oh wait, it's probably a pre-arranged get some, get gone type of thing.  But what about the present, huh, Buffy?  Okay, I'm not having this conversation with myself, I so don't wanna go there.*  

“Okay, cool.  But if you change your mind, the offer – “  

“That's nice of ya.  Thanks.”  Buffy couldn't ignore the sincerity in Faith's voice.  “But I'm not ditchin' my plans with her, so –“ Faith looked down and then towards the door.  Following the brunettes glance, Buffy got the message and headed for the portal.  

Opening the door she turned back to the Faith.  “I like the lights and the tree.”  

“Yeah.  Well, 'tis the season.  Whatever that means.”  

“Oh, if you want you can bring your friend with you.  That's if you want too.  I'd like to meet her and I know my mom would love to meet her as well.”  

Faith shrugged and stuck her hands in her back pockets.  “We'll see, B.”  With that abrupt statement Buffy left.  

Christmas Eve . . .  

Faith paced the length of her motel room.  *Can time go any slower?  What if her dad and cousin didn't leave, or her brother hasn't passed out or changes his mind 'bout drinkin'?  I hope she doesn't get caught.  Man, for someone who prides herself on not carin', you've sure let that cute blonde get under yer skin Faith.  Yeah, well she's worth lettin' in.  She's gentle, sensitive, and there was a sweetness to her, she'd go outta her way to keep from hurtin' anyone, includin' your worthless ass.  I can't believe I'm arguin' in my own head!* She shighed deeply and did one last visual sweep of the room.  *Room clean?  As clean as it's gonna get.  Holliday stuff up?  As much as I could afford.  Food and drink?  Some.  Presents?  They're ready.  Lack of sluttiness?  As respectable as possible.  Myself ready?  That's a big NO!  Jesus, Faith can we get any more optimistic here.* She resumed her pacing just as knock sounded on her door.  

Faith wiped her suddenly damp palms down her mini-skirt and took a deep breath.  Opening the door she tried to hide behind her usual mask of cool indifference, unaware that the blonde in the doorway always saw through her myriad of masks.  

Seeing the younger girl's nerves helped settle the butterflies in Tara's stomach.  Ducking her head she took in the other girl's outfit of black heels, nylons, and mini-skirt topped with a slivery-grey blouse unbuttoned to just above her cleavage.  While she had left her dark hair in its usual riotous mass of curls,  her make-up was actually rather subdued for her and the effect was rather stunning.  The whole picture had the shy girl doing her best to keep from staring, there was nothing she could do about the blushing though.  

All Faith could do was stare at the angel before her.  The tall, statuesque blonde was wearing strappy flats, a flowing beige skirt meant to hide her curves, but was doing just the opposite, while the white bulky sweater did manage to hide the majority of her upper body.  Her loose hair seemed to create a glowing halo about her head.  Faith could feel her breath hitch and her heartbeat race.  She felt a slew of emotions run through her; happiness, joy, peace, and pure pleasure just at the sight of the beautiful girl in front of her.  Not that these feelings were anything new, but the intensity of them almost brought the Slayer to her knees.  

“Hey.”  Tara said softly, glancing up at the stunned girl blocking the door.  

“Hey, oh, come on in.”  Faith replied stepping out of the way.  “Did you have any problems gettin' around your brother?  Is your dad and cousin outta the way?”  She bombarded her friend with questions as she entered.  

“N-n-no problems with my brother, h-he's passed out.  A-and f-f-father and B-Beth are s-safely on their way.”  Tara answered, ashamed.  Ashamed that to visit her best, if only, friend she had to sneak around her family.  

Shutting the door, Faith turned to Tara.  “Hey, what's with the stutterin' babe?  Did I do somethin' wrong?  Somebody bother you on the way over?”  Faith couldn't hide the concern in her voice.  

The blonde blushed and hid behind her hair once again at the thought that this gorgeous girl could care so much about her.  “N-no, you didn't do anything wrong and no trouble on the way over.”  She looked shyly through her hair at her friend.  “I-it's just that you look very beautiful tonight.” She could feel the blush climbing from her chest to burn its way to her face.  

“R-really?”  It was Faith's turn to stutter.  Tara's genuine smile lit up her face as she saw that Faith wasn't even trying to hide her insecurity.  “Not too slutty?”  

“Really, and you don't look the least bit slutty.”  

Faith quirked an eyebrow at her.  “Either way, babe, I'm still me; brash, crass and uncouth.”  

Tara giggled.  “Okay, maybe a touch slutty, but you wouldn't be you without it.  And the only reason for your brash, crass and uncouthness is just to either get a reaction or just to irritate people on general principle.”  

Faith threw her head back and laughed.  “Damn, you do know me, T.  Guess it's time for me to be movin' on.”  

“That's not even funny, Fai.”  Tara just shook her head and sat down at the table.  Leaning over she dug through her overnight bag that was under it.  “I have something for the top of our tree.”  

“Wicked!  What is it?”  Faith asked excitedly.  She leapt onto the bed and settled herself closest to the table.  

It was Tara's turn to laugh; she found Faith's excitement contagious.  Although, technically as a Wiccan she didn't celebrate Christmas, but she at least had a few memories of childhood Christmases when her mother was still alive.  She knew Faith had no happy Christmas memories; let alone any true holiday memories.  It saddens her to know that Faith had no real idea of Christmas, and the only idea she did have was of the commercialism of it.  So, Tara had decided to give Faith her first real Christmas.  

Tara brought out a homemade angel with dark brown hair and chocolate brown eyes.  She handed the doll to the younger girl.  “Here, you put her on our tree.  I named her Hope.”  

Faith held the little angel carefully in her hands as she took in the figure and the meaning of the gesture and words of the one person besides her first watcher, who ever truly cared for her.  She could feel tears pooling in her eyes for the first time in almost forever.  She knew deep down to her soul that she was completely safe with Tara that she could let down all of her walls with her.  She felt the mattress dip as Tara sat down next to her and gently rubbed her back when the tears started to fall.  Sitting there in a small, dingy motel room with a sad little Christmas tree awaiting its angel, Faith knew her heart belonged to her real life angel; Tara.  

“I-if you don't like it, w-we don't have to put her on.”  Tara did her best to keep the hurt out of her voice.  

“Don't like her?  Tara, I love her!”  Faith exclaimed as she swept the shy girl into her arms and onto her lap.  Carefully giving her a tight hug as she continued to cry silently.  Feeling the other girl returning the embrace, she whispered.  “Thank-you, Tara.”  

They sat that way for several moments.  Just enjoying the feel of the other in their arms; enjoying the feeling of absolute rightness that washed over them.  As Faith's crying slowed and eventually stopped she pulled a little bit away from the keeper of her heart.  She drowned in the brilliant sky blue eyes that were full of the same emotions she was feeling.  

“Hey, Tara?”  She kept her voice down.  

“Yes?”  Tara returned just as quietly.  

“Would you do me the honor of bein' my girl?”  As Faith realized what she had just asked the other girl, her fear of rejection rose up to bite her on the ass.  Seeing the fear flash across the brunette's face, Tara tightened her grip on the girl.  While her heart lodged itself in her throat, she hadn't realized that Faith felt the same way about her as she felt about the stunning Slayer.  But it was all there in her deep, soulful eyes, just waiting for her to see.  Feeling her heart settle back down and starting to warm, she answered.  

“It is I who would be honored to be your girl, Faith.”  Surprising them both, Tara leaned in and placed the softest, gentlest kiss on Faith's lips, taking their relationship to the next step.  

Faith's brain and body was short circuiting from the overflow of feelings flooding her.  For all of her sexual experience, this kiss was a first for her.  Tara wasn't surprised in the least with how gentle Faith was being as the kiss continued.  She knew that in Faith's world she was the only one allowed to see the sensitive and caring sides of the dark Slayer and she would do her best to protect the wounded girl.  

Neither girl wanted the kiss to end, but they both needed to breathe.  Tara leaned her forehead against Faith's as they regained their breath.  They got lost in each others eyes; while lost they held many deep and meaningful conversations with out speaking a single word.  They relaxed into each other as their conversations came to an end.  

“C'mon babe, let's get Hope situated on her new home 'cause I gotta couple of things for ya.”  Faith spoke softly so as not to break the mood that had settled over the room.  

“That's good, Fia, because I have something for you too.”  Tara ducked her head as she continued.  “Although, they're not all that great.”  

Faith put a finger under Tara's chin and made her meet her dark eyes.  “What you have given me already is perfect. So anythin' else you have for me can only add to this perfect night, as well as my life, no matter what you got for me, okay?”  She told her quite fiercely.  

Tara blushed and nodded her head.  

Faith kissed her on the tip of her nose and set her gently on her feet.  She put her arm around Tara's waist and both of them placed the angel on the top of the tree.  Tara leaned into the Slayer and whispered gently.  “Next year we'll get a bigger tree.”  

“Yeah, we will.”  Faith tightened her hold on her.  “So, how do we do this present thing?”  

“Well, some people wait 'til Christmas morning to open them, others –“  

“Oh, Hell no.  I can't wait that long.”  Faith interrupted, flashing her dimples.  

Tara found herself giggling again over the other girl's excitement.  “Some open them on Christmas eve.  And personally I'd rather give you your presents tonight anyway.”  

Faith quickly released the other girl, went to the other side of the bed and got the box out of its hiding place.  As she returned to the blonde's side they sat next to each other and simultaneously handed each other their gifts.  The dark Slayer noticed the neat and tidy job of wrapping Tara had done on her gift, compared to the mess she had made with her wrap job.  Tara could see where the Slayer's thoughts were going and rushed to reassure her.  

“For a first time wrapping, it's really well done.  If you want sometime I could show you how it's done?”  Tara was rewarded with a radiant smile from her girlfriend.  Just thinking of Faith as her girlfriend sent delicious shivers throughout her whole body.  

“I'll hold you to that.  Now open, open, open.”  Faith bounced on the bed, grinning like a fool.  

Infected once again with the brunette's enthusiasm, Tara carefully ripped into her present.  Revealing one of those long, wide but thin clothing boxes.  She removed the lid then gently lifted the tissue paper.  She found a soft lilac peasant blouse in her exact size and another much smaller box in the corner above the shirt.  Tears gathered in her eyes as she brushed the soft material with her hand.  It was the top she had been eyeing in the window of a little shop off the main drag.  She had no idea that Faith knew of her longing for the blouse, she also knew just how expensive it was too.  Right now, though, her heart felt full to bursting with love for Faith, the girl who went out of her way to show the world that she was this big bad-ass bitch that couldn't be bothered with caring or the small details of life.  Although it was Faith, herself, who willingly dropped all of her walls and masks when it was just the two of them.  Getting this blouse, showed just how caring, observant, and thoughtful the younger girl truly was.  Tara ignored the second gift for now, so that she could snuggle up to her Faith.  

“Thank you.”  She said in an emotionally choked voice.  

For Faith, as the surprise and delight had spread across Tara's face, she had felt that she had for once gotten something truly important right.  Neither did she regret the morning job she had gotten to be able to afford the presents she knew Tara deserved.  She felt her heart melt upon spying the tears of happiness in her girlfriend's eyes and watched her run her hand gently across the soft material.  When Tara embraced her, her heart swelled with love for the beautiful girl she held.  

“You're welcome,” she answered.  Leaning over she pulled out the small wrapped box from the tissue.  Holding it in front of Tara she continued.  “There's more, hun.  And this one I had the saleslady wrap for me.”  

Tara gave a watery chuckle and took the silver wrapped box.  This time she took extra care not to tear the paper.  Opening the purple velvet box, revealed under the paper, she discovered a beautifully crafted belly button post.  The top ball was an actual uncut, yet polished to a high shine, chunk of amethyst.  The main piece hung from the post, the design itself was in the general shape of a rectangle made up of intricate Celtic knot work that surrounded an oval vial filled with a clear fluid.  The whole thing was made of the purest silver.  All Tara could do was stare at it in awe.  She could feel the power coming from the piece of body jewelry.  

Faith cleared her throat.  “Uh, from what little I know of Wicca gemstones, uh, amethyst is for protection and mental strength or somethin' like that.  Um… from what the jeweler said that particular knot work is of the protection kind and a… the vial is filled with what a witchy friend calls, thrice blessed holy water.  Basically it's one major protection charm.”  

All Tara could do was stare in fascination at her beyond thoughtful girlfriend.  Who self-consciously shrugged her shoulders at her stare.  “Oh yeah, if it matters, the jeweler and witchy chick are one and the same.  I described what I was lookin' for and that's what she made.  I, uh, hope you like it, I remember you tellin' me 'bout how your mom pierced yer bellybutton so that the two of you would have a secret from the rest of yer family.”  

Tara was in awe of this young woman who could not only remember her penchant for jewelry, but was astute enough to realize that if she started suddenly wearing new jewelry around her house, her father would notice and make her life decidedly uncomfortable.  So instead Faith had got her jewelry, a very fine piece at that, for a rather unconventional place, but something she could wear every day and never have to worry about her father seeing it.  It was also one hell of a protection spell to boot to.  

Tara pushed Faith down to the mattress and smothered her face in kisses.  “You are the most…,” more kisses, “…amazing person I have ever had the pleasure to know.”  

During all this, all Faith could do was giggle and hold the blonde woman closer to her.  “That goes ditto for me, too.”  She gasped out between giggles.  “Okay, Tara, okay, I know ya love what I got ya.  Go try on your blouse.”  

“I'll do that,” she pressed a quick kiss on Faith's lips.  She grabbed her new blouse and rushed into the bathroom, never once letting go of her second present.  

Faith couldn't get the shit eating grin off of her face, not that she was trying very hard in the first place.  She sat there enjoying the warm sensations that were running through her.  Faith wanted to find the highest point in good 'ole Sunnyhell and shout out her love for Tara, to let the whole world know.  She came to a sudden decision; if Tara was okay with it they'd go see Mrs. S and Buffy.  They'd be the first ones to meet her girlfriend and if nothing else Buffy could help smooth any ruffled feathers with the rest of the Scooby gang.  Although Faith was pretty sure she was going to enjoy Buffy's freakage when she let her sister Slayer in on her true preferences.  Her thoughts were interrupted as the bathroom door opened.  

Faith stood and faced Tara as she came back into the room.  She sucked her breath in as she got a good look at her girlfriend in her new top.  It fit her perfectly, not too tight and not too loose.  It hugged her where it should and flowed everywhere else.  

Tara looked up shyly at the darker girl and flushed at the appreciation showing openly on Faith's face.  Even though Tara had lost the majority of her hesitation over her body around Faith, she was still new to the feeling of being attractive.  

“God, your beautiful, Tara. Inside and out.”  

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” she quipped coyly with a hint of her natural shyness.  

Faith felt her jaw drop in shock, then burst into laughter.  Moving to take her girlfriend into her arms, she nuzzled her sensitive neck.  “Babe, whatever you do, don't ever change.”  

Tara's face glowed, she loved it when she was able to get the tough girl to really laugh.  “That's not all, Fai.  But I need you to take a couple of steps back to show you the rest.”  

Faith complied, raising an inquisitive brow.  Tara lifted the front of her new shirt.  “It feels right, like it was meant.”  The blonde told her.  

The slayer looked down and took in the fact that Tara had also changed her simple hoop for the charmed post that she had gotten for her.  Running her fingers lightly next to the piercing, she thought the jewelry looked like it was perfect for the beautiful and silky skin of her witch.  Her whole being filled with pride and love for this girl who had stolen her heart.  She grinned at Tara, lowering the blouse she said.  “You're what makes it perfect.”  

Tara blushed and nudged the other girl as she went by her.  “Now it's your turn.”  She grabbed her present and handed it to Faith.  “I really hope you like them.”  

Faith just shot her a look that said 'you must be crazy'.  With that she tore into her gift unceremoniously, shredding the paper, box, and tissue lifting out a soft leather jacket the color of a doe's hide.  Wide eyed, she carefully put it on; it fit like a tailored glove.  She ran her hands down it gently, absorbing the smooth texture and excellent quality of the jacket. Suddenly she lunged and scooped Tara up in her arms and twirled her around with a giddy smile on her face that brought out her dimples in full force.  

“I love it Tara it's perfect.”  She laid a passionate kiss on the blonde's voluptuous lips.  She poured her everything into the kiss; her love, passion, lust, protectiveness, care, tenderness and awe.  She claimed ownership of Tara in that kiss, forever marked the older girl as hers.  The want, longing and possessiveness of the kiss overwhelmed Tara, she quite willingly submitted to the dark Slayer.  She accepted Faith's marking of her heart, mind, body and soul.  As Tara's passion was ignited by the brunette, she did her own claiming and marking of the younger girl who submitted to Tara.  Their passion raged out of control like a wild fire.  

It was a significant while later when the girls broke off the kiss.  Faith sat on the end of the bed with Tara on her lap, they leaned their foreheads together.  “Damn, babe, get any better at that and you'll kill me.”  Faith gasped out between heaving breaths.  

Tara didn't even try to form a coherent thought let alone words.  She let her eyes do the talking for her, letting the Slayer know she felt the same, to the same, if not greater, intensity.  Tara gently stroked her hand through the deep brown, silky hair.  Letting her touch convey her tenderness, compassion and her own protectiveness towards the wary girl.  While Faith sighed and leaned into the caresses.  

Sometime later Tara spoke up and let Faith know she had another gift awaiting her.  Faith perked up at that, she craned her head this way and that looking all around the room, but never letting Tara out of her arms.  

Tara chuckled at her girlfriend's antics.  “You won't be able to find it that way.”  She burst out laughing when the girl actually pouted.  “If you let go, you'll have better chances of finding it.”  Tara's laughter turned to giggles, when Faith continued the game by burying her face in Tara's neck and muttered 'never'.  “All you have to do is search your pockets, silly.”  

Keeping one arm around Tara's waist, Faith searched the left hand pockets and came up empty.  She switched arms and searched the right hand pockets.  In the lower pocket she found something, pulling it out she saw a braided hemp bracelet with gemstones weaved through the strands.  “Wow… you made this didn't you, babe?”  

“Yes.  I guess it's safe to say you like it?”  

“Hell yeah, it's awesome.  Plus nobody has ever made me anythin' before and stakes don't count.”  Faith held out her right wrist with the bracelet in her upturned palm.  “Tie it tight so there's no chance of me losin' it.”  

Tara took the bracelet and muttered a short incantation while she tied it around her girlfriend's wrist.  “There it's tuned specifically to you.  Like the charm you gave me,” she softly touched her new piece of jewelry.  “This is a ward to protect you from any kind of harmful magic.”  She placed a light kiss on those lips that she found so addictive.  

“I think this is gonna take some gettin' used to,“ Faith said with a hint of humor.  She elaborated at Tara's confused look.  “Mutual protectin', I'm not used to anybody lookin' out for me.”  

“But what about Buffy?”  

Faith shrugged.  “Sure she's got my back durin' a fight, but that's only when we're in the middle of a fight.  Shit, we can barely call each other friends, more like co-workers than anythin' else.”  

“Well, why don't you work on it,” Tara held up a hand to forestall anything Faith was going to say.  “I know you have a thing about trusting others, me being the exception, but if you want I will help you the best I can.  We both can become friends with Buffy at the same time.  What do you think?”  

Faith pulled her tighter to her.  “I think that offer is just one of the myriad reasons as to why I'm the luckiest chick in the world.  And you know what, I'll take you up on this offer too.  Just be forewarned it's not gonna be very easy.”  

“Nothing gained easily is worth having, with a few exceptions.  Us being the biggest exception.”  

“You think all of this was easy?!”  Faith couldn't keep the incredulous look off her face.  

“Oh, Goddess no, but it sure sounded good.”  Tara giggled.  

Faith shook her head and grinned at the girl in her lap.  “On that note luv, I gotta question for ya.”  Tara nodded her head for her to continue.  “Well, B came over the other night to invite me to her place for a Christmas eve dinner and when I told her I couldn't 'cause you were comin' she extended the invite to you as well.  And I was wonderin' if you'd like to go?  I mean it'd give ya a chance to meet B away from her Scoobies and you'd get ta meet her mom, and Mrs. S is wicked awesome.  So, what'd ya say?”  

“I think I just witnessed what you call Redbabble, Faith style.  Who, by the way, has an excellent idea, we should take Buffy up on her invitation.”  Tara loved the fact that she alone got to see all the different facets that made up Faith.  Although Faith tried to hide the darkness inside of her, from Tara, she knew it was there and accepted it as just another facet of the dark girl.  She didn't hold it against her, for she knew everyone had their own darkness.  

“Really?  'Cause I know how you feel 'bout meetin' new people.  And –“  

“Yes, really.  I do want to meet her and meeting her mom is just a bonus.  I-I'm actually g-glad you want me to meet them.”  Tara looked down to her lap, where she started to twist her hands together.  “I was beginning to think that maybe you were ashamed of me and that's why you didn't want me to meet them.”  

Faith raised her face back up.  “No, love that isn't why.”  Faith sighed deeply.  “B has her watcher, her mom, a boyfriend and the Scoobs.  Me?  All I had… have is you.  And you know me, I don't play well with others and that goes for sharin' too.  I didn't want to share you with them, I was bein' selfish, I wanted you all to myself.  I wanted you just for me and me alone.  I'm sorry you thought I was ashamed of you, when truth be told I'm so very proud of you.  But I won't lie, there will be times that I'll refuse to share you with them.  I'm sorry if you thought I was keepin' an important part of my life from you, in all honesty I was keepin' an important part of my life from them.”  Faith held her breath waiting for Tara's reaction to her little speech.  

“Oh, Faith…“ Tara started crying softly.  “There's no need for you to apologize.  Goddess, I can't find the right words to tell you how I'm feelin' right now.”  She gave a watery chuckle.  “It looks like we both have to work on our communication skills.”  

Faith chuckled herself and gently wiped her tears away.  “I hafta agree with you on that one,” she glanced at the watch that Tara had given her for her birthday.  “Although we could spend all night talkin', I think we should head over to B's before it gets too late.  While you get ready, I'll call us a cab.”  She gave Tara a loving kiss, set her on her feet and headed for the phone.  Tara went to the bathroom and repaired her makeup.  Tara came out in time to see Faith pull out two more presents from under the bed.  

Tara playfully put her hands on her hips.  “So, you were going to go whether I said yes or no, huh?”  She said teasingly.  

Faith's head snapped up.  “No, I wasn't.  If you'd said no I would've waited till I saw her on our next patrol and given them to her then.”  

“I'm sure, dear one, I was just teasing you.”  

“Oh,” she looked relieved.  “Well, the cabs here.”  She watched as Tara headed for the door, ignoring the bulky sweater.  “Uh… babe dontcha want your sweater?”  

“And cover up my Christmas present?  I don't think so; I want to show it off.”  Tara told her firmly.  

Grinning from ear to ear, Faith shook her head, locked the door and climbed into the cab with Tara.  

After the cab dropped them off at Buffy's house, Tara could sense Faith's agitation.  She softly slid her hand into the Slayers to help sooth her nerves.  Faith turned and gave her a tender smile.  

“So are you going to tell me what we got Buffy and her mom?”  Tara asked giving Faith's hand a squeeze.  

“Well for B I whittled her a stake then carved in some designs, which you had inlaid with silver.  Just in case she runs into an all around demon that ain't a vamp,” she answered as they headed up the walk.  “For Mrs. S I supplied the leather bound, gold leaf journal and again you had it embossed with her name and a really complex Celtic knot done in gold.  Oh, and you spelled it so that the only one who can read what's written in it is Joyce herself.”  

“We're just consummate gift givers aren't we?”  


Tara giggled and nudged Faith.  “So, are you going to ring the bell or what?”  

“Here goes nothin',” Faith muttered under her breath and rang the doorbell.  

Inside the house …  

“Angel or star?”  Joyce asked holding one of each in her hands.  

“Oh, uh, star.”  Buffy turned back to the tree.  “Star.”  

“Um, mom, you know how you had me invite Faith over for dinner?”  

“Yes.”  Joyce looked at her daughter quizzically.  

“Well, she declined 'cause she had a friend coming over, so I opened the invitation to her friend as well.  Is that okay?”  Buffy looked to her mom nervously.  

Joyce looked rather shocked.  “Any friend of Faith's is as welcome as she is, have you met this friend, Buffy?”  

“Actually, mom that was the first I'd heard of her myself.”  

The doorbell interrupted their conversation.  Mother and daughter looked at each other in puzzlement.  Buffy answered the door, revealing a rather toned down Faith and tall, voluptuous, yet shy, blonde.  Buffy didn't miss the fact that they were holding hands or that Faith was standing rather protectively by the taller girl.  

“Hey,” Faith said nervously.  

“Hi,” Buffy could hardly contain her surprise at the sight of Faith's friend; she had expected somebody quite a bit more along Faith's lines.  Not this shy, self-aware girl, although she was quite pretty.  

“Uh, it seems my girlfriend here, was ready to meet ya,” Tara gave her a nudge with their clasped hands.  Faith sighed.  “Ok, it's more like I was ready for you two to meet.”  Faith glanced down.  “I, uh, thought it about time that she and I really get into the spirit of the Scooby gang.  So, no more keepin' her to myself.”  

Buffy watched as the taller girl rubbed Faith's shoulder as she said this, like she knew exactly how much it had cost the brunette girl to admit what she did.  

“I'm glad you guys came.”  Buffy gave them a genuine smile.  

Faith returned the smile and held out the presents.  “Uh, here.”  

“Why don't you guys come in,” Buffy said accepting the gifts.  “from the entire lack of cold?”  

“Mm,” was Faith's response along with a small grin.  Buffy's Slayer hearing allowed her to catch Tara's stifled giggle.  She closed the door as the girls entered the house.  

Faith turned to Buffy, as Tara took in the house.  “Uh, that one's fer your mom,” she pointed to the flat gift.  “They ain't the greatest, but they're from both of us.”  

“Faith, you and your friend made it.”  Came Joyce's voice from the living room.  She gave Faith a warm smile and went to meet them as they entered the room.  Joyce studied Tara in her entirety and immediately warmed to the girl.  Like Buffy she didn't miss the held hands or Faith's protective stance around the serene, yet nervous, girl.  Unlike Buffy, Joyce could see the love blossoming between the two girls, and her smile widened.  She was glad that Faith had found her special someone.  What little she knew of Faith, she did know the girl had been dying to love and be loved by someone.  Even without knowing the girl's name she heartily approved of Faith's choice.  

Joyce's appraisal of Tara didn't go unnoticed by the shy girl.  When she hesitantly met the older woman's gaze, she felt as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders as she saw the approval in Joyce's eyes.  Tara could feel a blush run up her cheeks as she dropped her gaze shyly.  Tara had also noticed how Buffy hadn't really seemed to catch what Faith really meant when she had called Tara her girlfriend.  

“Oh, that is so thoughtful of you girls,” the single mother said warmly when Buffy handed her the gifts.  

“They ain't that great,” Faith repeated herself.  She tugged Tara forward.  “Um, Mrs. S, B, I'd like you guys to meet my girlfriend Tara MaClay.  Tara this is Mrs. S, B's mom and this is the ever infamous Buffy Summers:  Burner of high school gyms, user of rocket launchers on demons and all 'round pastel wearer.”  

“Hey!”  Buffy exclaimed and smacked Faith's shoulder.  Faith just smirked back at her.  “It's nice to meet you Tara.  Tell me, how do you put up with the mouth here?”  

“What?!”  Faith returned with mock indignation.  Then a sly expression crossed her face.  “Well, B, at least I know how to use it.”  

“Now, now girls, you don't want to give Tara a bad impression, do you?  It is very nice to meet you Tara and welcome to my home.”  The warm humor in her voice helped relax everybody just that little bit more.  And nobody missed the fact that the girlfriend comment again went over Buffy's head.  

“You know, I'm gonna go upstairs and get your gifts.”  Buffy spoke up heading for the stairs.  “Excuse me.”  

“Would you girls like some egg-nog?”  Joyce asked.  

They heard Buffy call down.  “Okay, mom, don't touch yours though 'cause then you're gonna know what it is.”  

Several minutes later Buffy came back downstairs changed into slaying clothes.  She found her mom and the other two girls in the kitchen enjoying the holiday beverage.  As she handed her mom the gifts she brought down with her, she said.  “Something's come up.  It's not too serious, mom, so don't worry, Faith could I speak to you alone.”  

“Sure, B.”  As they headed to the living room.  “What's the what?”  

“Angel was in my room, something's going on and I need to find out what.  I just need you to stay with mom in case he comes back.”  She said as she grabbed her coat and headed for the door.  

“Yeah, I'll play watchdog. I don't really get it though.”  

“I'll explain later,” Buffy said as she opened the door.  “Everything.  I promise.”  

“Watch yer back!”  Faith called out, shutting the door.  She turned to the living room to see Joyce settling in the armchair next to the couch where Tara was seating herself, holding both of their cups.  

Faith forced a grin.  “Looks like I got babysitting duty tonight.”  

“F-F-Faith, how d-dare y-you,” Tara slapped her girlfriend's thigh playfully as she sat as close as decently possible to Tara.  

“So, Faith, how did you and Tara meet?” Joyce asked.  

“I-it's a l-long s-story Mrs. S-Summers.”  Tara got out.  

“I was lost in the school and Tara showed me the way out.”  Faith summed it up succinctly.  

“O-okay, n-not so l-long.”  

“Well, I for one would love to hear the long version.”  Joyce smiled warmly to the painfully shy girl.  Faith looked to Tara questioningly, who nodded her consent to let Faith tell the story.  

“Ok, here goes.  It was like my second or third time at the school and hadn't quite got the layout of it down yet.  Truth be told, I was just tryin' ta get outta there and I ended up lost.”  She shook her head ruefully.  “So, I'm standin' there wonderin' how the hell a Slayer could get lost in a school and whether or not I should just go through a window.  When there was a tap on my shoulder, I turned around and there she stood,” both Tara and Joyce could hear her voice soften.  “The shyest, cutest blonde I have ever seen.  She asked me, all quiet like, if there was anythin' she could help me with, in the most adorable stutter.  I let her know I was lost, I figured she'd just point me to the nearest exit then run as far and as fast as possible from me.  Instead she shocked the hell outta me by offerin' ta show me 'round and to teach me a way to memorize the layout of the school.  I was all, ain't you supposed to be in class, and she gave me a shy smile before she told me that she had a free hour 'til her next class.  So, I took her up on the offer and by the time the hour was up, I had the entire school memorized and I mean the entire school memorized, better than the back of my hand.  And that's the long version, Mrs. S.”  

Joyce looked to Tara.  “How were you able to help her memorize the school in an hour?  I mean, Buffy has been going there for over two years and I still occasionally get lost.”  

Tara blushed furiously.  “I-I asked h-her w-what was t-the one thing s-she knew b-best in h-her l-life and to t-think of t-the s-school as t-that one t-thing.  T-then I-I h-helped her to m-map out the s-school in h-her h-head.”  Tara prayed that Mrs. Summers wouldn't ask what the one thing, for Faith was.  The Goddess wasn't listening.  

“What's the one thing you know best, Faith?”  There was a twinkle of mischief in Joyce's eye.  

“Why the human body, Mrs. S.”  Faith answered with equal mischief.  As Tara's blush intensified neither woman could restrain their laughter.  

“Y-you t-two are e-evil, you k-know that.  I-I know B-Buffy has y-your number F-Faith, b-but does s-she k-know how e-evil you are M-Mrs. Summers?”  Tara pouted as they both continued chuckling.  

“I'm truly sorry if I embarrassed you Tara.  But your face was just too easy to read.  I'll try not to do it again.”  Joyce calmed down, trying to put the girl at ease.  

Tara sighed.  “N-no that's o-ok Mrs. S-Summers.  I-I know you d-didn't mean any h-harm w-with it.  B-besides with Faith f-for a g-girlfriend I-I had b-better get used t-to b-blushing.”  Tara took a deep breath.  “And if y-you t-thought t-tonight was b-bad you s-should have seen m-my f-face then.  I-I don't t-think I h-have ever b-blushed that h-hard or f-for so l-long in m-my entire l-life.”  

“Well, I am truly sorry if I hurt your feelings –“  

“You didn't Mrs. S that rendition of Willowbabble, Tara style was to let you know that she was teasin' ya.”  Faith cut in.  

“W-what she s-said Mrs. S-Summers.”  Tara leaned into Faith and laid her head on her shoulder.  

“If you're sure…”  

Both girls nodded enthusiastically to set the older woman's mind to rest.  “Okay, then.  I'm assuming here, but Tara are you aware of the fact that Faith is one of two Slayers?”  

It was the girls turn to break out in laughter.  Joyce just waited for them to get it out of their systems with an amused smile.   “Sorry, Mrs. S,” the younger girl said as their laughter slowed to a stop.  “It's just that she found out that very same night.”  

“I-I was on my way h-home from the public library, when I-I realized just how l-late I-I was getting home.  So I-I decided to cut through Restfield Cemetery.  My family l-lives just on the other side of it.  It wasn't one of m-my smartest decisions.  I-I found myself surrounded by four vampires.”  

“And I was just too amped to head to my room after patrol, so I decided to do one last sweep through town and Restfield was closest so it was my first stop.”  

“I-I knew I-I was in trouble, so I-I tried to gather my center to c-cast a spell, when out of nowhere this rather l-large b-ball of energy dressed in b-black l-leather started fighting the vampires around me.”  

“At the time I didn't know there was a civilian there I just knew that I had gotten lucky and there were some left-overs for me to play with.”  

“Once I-I realized the Cavalry h-had, arrived I-I was able to find my center and was able to help my knight-in-shining-l-leather b-by dusting a vamp that was t-trying to s-sneak up on w-whoever the person was.”  

“And that's what made me realize that there was someone there.  So, I quit playin' 'round and got ta work dustin' the rest.  After I was done I turned ta give the civilian a lecture 'bout bein' out that late, considerin' where they were, and to my surprise, I had helped the same chick who had come ta my rescue earlier in the day.”  

“S-she just started walking m-me home and on the way s-she explained everything a-about slayers.  W-we decided to m-meet up the next n-night to finish the con-conversation and now h-here we are.”  

Joyce sat there for a while and processed what she had been told, the way it had been told.  “When did you start seeing each other as more than friends?”  Joyce tried to ask as delicately as possible and to her surprise both girls started to blush.  The two girls looked at each other, communicating without words.  Tara then hid behind her hair, a trick she was very adept at.  

“Just tonight as a matter of fact.  You and Buffy are the first to know, I hope it doesn't bother you.  Although I think I'm gonna need a bigger hammer for Buffy.”  She sighed in exasperation, refusing to think of possible rejection, by the one adult figure she totally respected.  

“Why would seeing love bother me, Faith?  And I think you're right about the hammer thing, sometimes I wonder about that girl.”  Joyce held up a hand to keep Faith from further comment.  “I have no problems with the two of you being together.  In all honesty, I feel extremely honored and very special to be the first to know.  And I heartily approve, just be careful.  I don't want anything to happen to you girls.”  With that the conversation flowed to other topics and the three of them eventually had dinner.  The after-dinner conversation lasted until the wee hours of the morning.  

Faith listened to the quiet of the house; the soft sounds of Mrs. S getting changed into more comfortable clothes; the gentle breathing of her Tara, as she had fallen asleep an hour ago.  She savored the feel of the gentle girl in her arms; she also relished the fact that she was totally and completely safe around the beautiful girl.  She even knew that if worse came to worse, Tara would be able to protect her should she ever need it.  That Tara was stronger than she appeared.  Faith glanced out the window and the sight that greeted her was enough to widen her eyes.  She gently woke Tara up and as she looked around in a sleepy haze, Faith turned her to face the window.  Tara's eyes widened with disbelief.  Both girls got up and headed for the door where they met up with Joyce.  All three looked at each other and silently headed out onto the porch, where Joyce stayed to enjoy the sight.  But Faith and Tara moved off and out into the snowfall, Faith held her hands up, tilted her head back and allowed her walls to drop.  All Tara could do was gaze in awe at the pleasure on her girlfriend's face at such a simple thing as snow.  

Tara came up to her Slayer, wrapped her arms around her and lightly kissed her on the nose.  “Merry first Christmas, my love,” she whispered to her.  

Faith pulled her in tighter.  “This is the best Christmas ever.  Merry Christmas to you, my one.”  Faith gave her the most loving kiss from the depths of her soul.